“We have qualified for the knock-out round; Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has waived off the fees for utilisation of the SAG ground for the team’s practice, and I trust the boys will not just qualify but bring home the Santosh Trophy,” said Goa Football Association (GFA) president Caitano Fernandes, as preparations are afoot to prepare for the final round that begins in Odisha from February 10.
Goa finished on top of group 3 unbeaten – winning three matches and drawing two. The boys scored eight goals and conceded three with Trijoy Dias and Mohammed Faheez sharing six of the eight goals scored.
Goa plays its first match against Kerala, and the confidence in the team that is set to begin practice on January 25 is high. “We are a compact team. The trust amongst us is high, and we know how to share responsibility,” said Trijoy Dias, who has been showing his prowess on the left wing.
“Scoring goals has been fun with the team because there is no tension amongst us to score. I have been combining well with Trijoy and the rest of my colleagues, and we will continue in the same manner,” countered Mohammed Faheez, who plays as a striker but is equally adept at playing on the right and left.
“The Santosh Trophy is big for me. There is nothing better than seeing my state be the best in football in the country and that is why we aim to win and not qualify,” argued Trijoy, who plays for Churchill Brothers FC.
“Being a striker is not just about scoring but creating chances for others to score,” chips in Mohammed, who plays for Sesa FA.
“The team will be assembling on January 25, and I first need to check the fitness of the boys. I plan to continue with the same team, provided all pass their fitness test,” disclosed coach Nobert Gonsalves.
Goa begins its final rounds grouped along with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala and the winner of Group 6 (yet to be decided). The semi-finals, the third-place playoff and the finals are scheduled to be played in Saudi Arabia in the format revised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
“The boys have been combining well, and their understanding has improved with each game. Competition is tough, but our boys are capable of playing better,” admitted coach Nobert.
Trijoy, who moved from Sporting Clube de Goa to Churchill Brothers FC, was unable to join the senior team in the I-league due to a knee injury he was recuperating from.
If the Goan boys are doing well in attack and midfield with Stendly playing a cameo role, the defence is bolstered by the play of goalkeepers Hanji Coelho and Sanji Bugde who conceded three goals in the Group matches.
“The team will be practising at the GMC Athletic Stadium from January 25 and flying to Odisha on February 8,” stated GFA secretary Lector Mascarenhas.
“There are some changes made to the Goa Professional League schedule due to the boys going for the tournament and the same are being intimated to all teams,” added Lector.
“The boys are going with one thing in mind, that they have to enjoy playing and they have shown that in the past. I am confident of the boys,” concluded GFA president Caitano Fernandes, who flew twice to be with the boys in the Group stage and will be doing so again.