Mohammad Nawaz, FC Goa’s goalkeeper hailing from Manipur began playing football as an outfield player but as fate had it, he shined as a goalkeeper. From his debut match at the age of 18 to today, he has come a long way. Nawaz has been name Emerging Player of the game this season, is placed fourth in the list for the Golden Glove among other established names, has played every ISL match so far and has his eyes firmly on the title this season.
GT caught up with the young talent. Here are some excerpts.
GT: Five more games to go before the playoffs – three home and two away. What is going on through your mind and what will be the game plan going into the last 5 games?
Nawaz: First of all, the remaining 5 matches are very important to us, we need to win all the games. We are preparing hard. Our primary focus is to win the next match against Kerala Blasters. After that we'll see about the next matches. We are taking it one game at a time. Yes, home games are always good for us as we have our fans here and even at the away matches, we have our travelling fans as well as fans in other cities, with us. So wherever we go we got a lot of fans. We don't have any problems playing against away teams as we give our 100% every time in every game and we are preparing with that intention for the coming five matches.
GT: You trained under various coaches. How did they help you with your game?
Nawaz: When I was at the U17 India camp, I was guided well by the goalkeeping coach. Mario was the goalkeeping coach and I have learnt a lot from him. Now I'm training with the senior goalkeeping coach, Virendra. He is helping me very much with my game and he always helps me improve and corrects all my mistakes. Yes, it helps me improve my game and grow into a better player and I've learnt many things from my coaches. From the time I have started playing at FC Goa, I can say I've improved by 80% so I’m very happy with the coaches and their guidance.
GT: You used to be an outfield player before 2013. No wonder you're so calm with the ball at your feet. What made you take up the goalkeeper’s position and do you miss being up field?
Nawaz: (Laughs), Yes I was an outfield player, but I wasn't that good. I didn't choose any position before becoming a goalkeeper. I just went to play for the fun of it in the past, but not as a goalkeeper. I went for local tournaments as an outfield player but wasn't that successful. I went for a trial once, but I wasn't a good outfield player. However, at the trail there was no good goalkeeper. So my uncle told me to try out as a goalkeeper. That’s how my journey began as a goalkeeper.
GT: Last season your passing accuracy rate was 80% and this year it is at 89%. Coach Lobera likes to set his team up playing from the back. How do you stay calm and coordinate with the defenders?
Nawaz: I have the habit of playing like this from my childhood. It's my thing. The coaches give me a lot of confidence and even the goalkeeping coaches say that if I do a mistake, I'm learning, so they tell me to keep doing what I want to and they give me freedom which is all I want. As long as I have a good 1st touch, I know I can handle the situation. Then, everything goes right. I find it very easy if I have a good first touch, so that's all what matters in that situation.
GT: What goes through your mind when a penalty is being taken?
Nawaz: This depends on the situation of the match, whether you're winning or losing. Yes of course a penalty is dangerous. There’s more chance for the striker to shoot and it's difficult for us to save it. If you're losing the match, you would want to save it. If you're winning also, you'd want to save it as you want to keep the match alive. A penalty is always hard to save for any goalkeeper. But if I save it, I’m so thrilled that I can’t even fall asleep with the excitement of having achieved it. I feel really good, it’s the best feeling ever.
GT: Who is your favorite goalkeeper?
Nawaz: I used to watch Iker Casillas a lot, and also Manuel Neuer. I watch Neuer because of his talent and he is a sweeper keeper who gets out of the box a lot. I watch Casillas for his technique. These two have been my idols. Lately, I like to watch Ederson from Manchester City. I just love to watch him play.
GT: You just turned 20 this week. You have a bright future ahead of you. What did you wish for on your birthday?
Nawaz: This year I just wish to win the Indian Super League trophy. If I win this trophy at the age of 20 it'll be a big boost for me. Last year I was in the final but I didn't play because of my injury. I really wanted to play the final so much, but couldn't. It was my 1st season and I reached the final, it's just been an incredible experience. We then went and won the Super Cup. I'm thankful to the coach to give me a chance after my injury. I was very happy and I gave my best and we won the Super Cup. It's been a great achievement. Just yesterday I was thinking that when we win the ISL this year it'll be my dream come true. And of course, I'd love to play in the national team in the coming future.