"My best and worst moments in India are the same", says Joffre Mateu about 2015 ISL final heartbreak
Joffre has seen it all in the Indian Super League. A winner in the first season with Atletico de Kolkata, the Spaniard shifted allegiance in the second season to FC Goa, where he came mightily close to a second triumph in as many seasons. However, a late controversial goal from Stiven Mendosa meant that Joffre and co. had to go empty handed in front a vociferous and partisan home crowd.
This year, however, things haven’t really gone to plan as Goa languish at the bottom of the table as the season approaches the halfway stage. In an interview with Sportskeeda, the midfielder opens up about his fond memories in the country and his special with Goa.
After playing the ISL in all three seasons, the 36-year-old can be considered to be a veteran of the league. However, he feels that he is not the best man to give an opinion about Indian football.
“I’m not the most experienced player here in India but, two ISLs are enough to know a couple of things here. I think from the first season, we are all improving a lot.
“Not only talking about players even though we can see now very good players, very good Indian players, important and key players in each team in the ISL. But the organization, rules and structure as well. I think we are on a good path for the future.”
The Spaniard played a crucial role in Kolkata’s success story story under Antonio Habas in ISL’s first season, forming a deadly trio in the middle alongside Borja Fernandez and Oftense Nato. However, it was last season at Goa that he really really came to the limelight with a series of dazzling performances for FC Goa.
Under the tutelage of Zico, the Spaniard former another deadly triumvirate alongside Jonatan Lucca and Leo Moura. With the two South American alongside, Jofre formed the core of a team that ran rampant across the league, being designated as the most entertaining team in the league. And the results followed suit as they ended the league stage on top of the table, having scored the most number of goals in the stage in ISL history.
And that created what he now refers to as a “special bond” between him and Zico. Comparing him with Habas was never going to be an easy task. However, he didn’t shy away when he was forced into an answer.
“I’ve never met any coach that is the same as the other. So everyone has his difference. But obviously, I had a good feel playing under both. But I think you can see that with Zico my bond is deeper.
“I feel free in the field. I feel his confidence. Not because he is putting me in his starting 11, but because he is a coach who is very worried about the behaviour of the team, the feeling the of the environment of the team, the group and I think it is very important we saw it in him as he looks out for all the people participating. I think this is the main difference.”
If I have to choose, I’m a Gaur: Joffre
Joffre’s love story with Goa seems to be a truly unique one. Thousands of miles away from his hometown of Barcelona, the Catalonian seems to have found a second home.
Speaking on the connection with the place, he added, “I feel special in Goa. Maybe it’s because it is a smaller place than Kolkata. Kolkata is a huge place. It is not an easy city. I love the city and the experience there as it was my first time in India and I love the place.”
Having being brought up in the football crazy city of Barcelona, he has come a long way only to land to of the biggest Football-crazy destinations in India viz. Kolkata and Goa. However, he has no hesitations when it comes to choosing one between the two.
“Here in Goa, we can see warmth in the people of Goa. They involve us because they feel very close to the team. So if I have to choose, I’m a Gaur.”
The veteran has seen the best and worst of the ISL final. After winning the first season via a 95th-minute winner for Kolkata, Jofre was on the wrong side of things when they took on Chennaiyin last year.
The Spaniard wouldn’t be blamed to have thought that he had won it for his side when he curled in a sumptuous free-kick in the 87th minute to give Goa a 2-1 lead. However, the game had a sting in the tail as two late goals saw Chennaiyin grab victory out of the jaws of defeat. Reminiscing his best and worst moments in the country, he took us back to the nights which saw his fortunes take two turns in two years.
“I think they (my best and worst moments in India) are the same. In the final, the best and the worst are very close.
“For me when I scored last in the final, the free kick it felt like I was floating and not feeling anything. It was a weak feeling. This was the best and the worst.”
This year, for Goa, it has been a different story. The hefty fines imposed on them after last year’s final’s mishaps meant that they were unable to keep the core of the team together. With new players struggling to gel together, their fortunes have taken a turn for the worst.
However, he believes that the team has a lot of fight and resolve in them. Still sounding optimistic about the campaign, the midfielder hopes that they can produce performances the rest of the way which can make the people of Goa proud to be represented by the Gaurs.
“I would choose to make the people of Goa be proud of us like this same season as the last season. The feeling that everyone is happy with me.”