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We Have to Wait and See How Our Girls Shape Up: FC Goa Prepare in Short Time for GFA Women's League

Photo Credit: FC Goa

Photo Credit: FC Goa

GFA Women's League: FC Goa will take on Futebol Club YFA at Navelim in their first game on February 28, having been in training for just over three weeks.

FC Goa will be kicking off the GFA (Goa Football Association) Women’s League on February 28 when they take on Futebol Club YFA at Navelim at 8:15am but they have had very less time in hand to prepare the team for the 5-team league. The GFA Women’s League start on February 28 and ends on Match 31st with Goa United Sports Academy, Sirvodem Sports Club and Compassion Football Club participating apart from the two teams that play the first game of the league. FC Goa announced their 24-member squad on February 16 and on February 25, the girls had been training under the FC Goa coaches for three weeks.

After over a year of inactivity due to the pandemic and the extremely thin game time in women’s football, these girls have not had any competitive action in a long time. And that’s something both FC Goa’s Technical Director Derrick Pereira and the women’s team and other youth teams’ coach Sugitesh Mandrekar pointed out, while calling for a better structure in place for the girls.

“We are working with the girls and one of the reasons to have Sugitesh (Manjrekar) as the coach is because he worked on the previous team. We are looking at the girls as to what are the areas of improvement but the time is not enough but we are definitely looking to play the FC Goa style. The last time when we participated in the league, the situation was similar as we were late. We had some exciting girls last time and we worked with that young lot and almost won the league. We are hoping to repeat the same performance. Let’s see. The standard of all the teams are on the same levels but we have to wait and see how our girls shape up,” Derrick said in an exclusive conversation with News18.com.

“We will try to implement our style but to get results, we have to make changes here and there and work to the strength of the girls. But wherever it is possible, we will try to have our girls hold the ball and play. Whenever it is not, we will work according to the situation,” he added.

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Sugitesh, while speaking with News18.com, also rued the lack of game time for women footballers and said professionalism is yet to come in the women’s game. “The girls have not played for so long. Women’s football in India and Goa, there is not much competitive match. The whole qualifiers and the final round is about two months and the rest of the 10 months, they have no football. We don’t have enough structure for the girls. We only get girls directly at the senior level right now and you can’t develop them too much technically. We are trying to improve their technical abilities. We could have done much better if these girls would have come at a younger age. Now that they are 18-19, it’s a lot of work to develop them technicalities. Even the mental aspect of it. Football for women right now, they cannot depend on it. It’s amateur at the moment, the professionalism is yet to come,” he said.

CALLS FOR STRUCTURE

Derrick stated that like men’s football, women footballers must have a longer season as well. He also called for regular youth leagues for girls in order for them to develop into technical footballers from a younger age.

“We have to have a proper plan or structure in place for a longer time. Few matches are not enough to develop them in top-class footballers. As kids, I have seen players like Yolanda (D’Souza), Juliana (Colaco), Succorinha (Pereira) and late Rekha and they were national champions then. The quality they had, they were much ahead than the present lot. To reach their level, we should have a proper structure and longer season,” he said, adding that he wanted to see all these corporate houses and men’s teams in the Goa Pro League get into women’s football.

Derrick further said that all the state associations must take the onus of implementing a proper structure for the women’s game. He admitted that planning in the current scenario was far fetched but hoped that would not be the case in the next years. Derrick also called for All India Football Federation (AIFF) to have a longer Indian Women’s League (IWL) season and not just an affair for less than a month.

“Competition is very important for development and it has to be competitive, not just one or two teams dominating. If people get time to prepare the teams, there can be a very competitive league and that will help develop our level.”

Derrick shared that while putting up the women’s team ahead of the upcoming GFA Women’s League, there was definitely that question in the air that ‘what after this tournament?’ He said that once the situation improves, FC Goa will have a proper training plan for the girls. Since FC Goa already have a grassroots league for girls, they plan to have a centre of excellence just like the boys.

“We will definitely push the GFA and AIFF to have a proper structure in place for women’s football. From our side, we will be working on that. First our plan is to have this team and show the pathway to the younger lot. If we push the association to have a proper structure, there will definitely be a pathway for women’s football.”

Sugitesh elaborated on his vision for development of women’s football at FC Goa saying that the game has been sidelined in India and Goa for way too long. He said there has to be a provision where the girls can come for training at least thrice a week. Sugitesh also believed that it was important to catch the girls young and train them properly and give them competition against the club’s youth teams. “They suddenly come for senior-level matches and they need to perform there, that hampers their progress. With regards to developing a team for the future, if girls can grow up within our system, they can be much better footballers, which will help the state and the national team,” Sugitesh said.

PREPARATION FOR THE LEAGUE

FC Goa held open trials for two to three days after which they selected 30 players. Having trained them for about three weeks, they narrowed it down to 24 girls, which is their final squad number. Derrick admitted that the club was late to the party while other teams had already begun recruiting. However, he added that the FC Goa had a good mix of youth and experience and they were all working on improving the technical, tactical and physical abilities of the players.

A number of Goan players are currently playing in KSFA Women’s Super Division, meaning the Goa league will miss out on some of the state’s top talent.

In the past three weeks, the coaching team has given the girl’s team three practice matches internally against their U-13 and U-15 boys. Sugitesh said that since they had not been in competitive action for long, playing against the boys who were sharper and quicker than them, helped the girls understand the nuances of playing against a tough opponent. They were also made to understand the pressure of playing for FC Goa and how to handle a superior opponent.

Sugitesh said they want their women’s team to also play the FC Goa way even though it was difficult to implement. “It is not impossible, we are trying with them to keep the ball and going ahead. The girls will struggle initially in a couple of girls but then they will get the system. But if we completely ignore our system and go for long balls and stuff, then that’s not our way of playing football. It will come, you have to stick to your philosophy and give them options on the field. That is how we go through a match,” he said.

FC Goa’s most-known Goan face Malvita Mascarenhas admitted that possession-based football was new to the women’s game and that they had mostly been used to play long balls. “It’s definitely tough because as you would know, possession-based football is new to women’s football in India. So of course, it’s about adaptation but we are working on it. Even with the youngsters, they are getting along and we have been trying to just follow the coach,” she said in FC Goa’s press conference.

Another FC Goa player Kusum Shaikh said it was a challenge and one can’t run away from it. “Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and that is how we are taking it,” she stated.

Both Derrick and Sugitesh said the experienced ones in the team were helping the youngsters be prepared and having Malvita in the team was a huge plus point.

“Having Malvita in our team is a great asset for us. Apart from her on-field experience, I have seen her off the field and she helps the players and encourages them. Some young girls who are having issues off the field, she is there to help them. This is the first time we are working with her and we rely on her experience. We have a couple of more senior players who along with Malvita are trying to help gel the team, get the younger ones more comfortable and make it a team. We have good experience in those girls,” Derrick said.

Sugitesh said that the experienced girls formed the core of the team and that they talk to the youngsters, motivate them and help the team gel along. Malvita said unlike men’s football, where the players are used to playing with each other, in women’s football, players take time to gel because they aren’t used to playing together regularly.

Derrick said that the girls were excited to play and had shown a lot on enthusiasm in training. “They are all excited and we are all anxious to know how they will perform. We have faith in them and we are working with them. There’s a lot in training but a long way to go,” he concluded.

FC GOA WOMEN’S SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Swizel Carvalho, Jenoshka Fernandes, Lysandra Rodrigues

Defenders: Kulsum Shaikh, Prissie Fernandes, Malvita Mascarenhas, Stessi Cardozo, Remediana Noronha

Midfielders: Vailanka D’Souza, Geneive Fernandes, Suveda Kokate, Joyvi Fernades, Rebecca Mascarenhas, Amisha Endro, Kimberley Fernandes

Forwards: Mable Fernandes, Aqsa Sayed, Blessica Rodrigues, Sujata Shetty, Karina Haldankar, Joizima Fernandes, Leifa Carvalho, Flani Costa, Neefa Clemente

GFA WOMEN’S LEAGUE SCHEDULE

Feb 28: FC Goa vs Futebol Club YFA (8.15am), Sirvodem SC vs Compassion FC (3.45pm)

March 3: Futebol Club YFA vs Goa United SA (3.45pm)

March 4: Compassion FC vs FC Goa (8.15am)

March 7: Goa United SA vs Compassion FC (8.15am), FC Goa vs Sirvodem SC (3.45pm)

March 10: Sirvodem SC vs Goa United SA (3.45pm)

March 11: Compassion FC vs Futebol Club YFA (3.45pm)

March 14: Goa United SA vs FC Goa (8.15am), Futebol Club YFA vs Sirvodem SC (3.45pm)

The second leg matches will be held on March 17, 21, 24, 28 and 31.