At the steel capital of India, last season's Indian Super League runners up FC Goa pummeled Jamshedpur FC 5-0 to secure the top spot on Wednesday. It stole the headlines for right reasons aftermath the third successive victory under the interim boss Clifford Miranda. Newspapers were heaping praise on the Gaurs on becoming the first Indian club to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage.
Right-back Seriton Fernandes, along with Brandon Fernandes, anxiously watched their side dismantle their opposition from the sidelines, as they were suspended for accumulating four yellow cards throughout the league campaign.
The 27-year-old defender reveals that he feels 'honoured' to gain qualification for the Champions League and to achieve FC Goa's primary target, which was to seal a place in the Asian tournament.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, Seriton divulges after being queried about the AFC Champions League qualification, "It feels really good. It's the first time (AFC CL Qualification) for myself, and for FC Goa, and I feel honoured to be part of this competition. When we started the season, sealing a place in Asia by finishing at the top of the table was our primary target."
Since the 2019/20 league title winners become the first club to enter the top-tier Asian competition, the right-back feels that the Indian players' reputation will increase in the coming years.
"Qualification for this Asian competition will also do more good for Indian football too." he said.
Having played for Dempo and Laxmi Prasad, the defender figured it difficult to break into the first team. I-League outfit Churchill Brothers signed him on 2016 and immediately loaned him out to Sporting Goa.
Moving back to his parent club in the successive season, Seriton was utilized as a right-winger until Derrick Pereira took over the club. He was impressive in the left defensive flank till the season ended.
"When I was with Churchill Brothers, I used to operate at right wing position. Then Derrick came and told to occupy the left-back position, where I never played before. I gave my best and performed well under him. Thankfully, we won the first game under him." he said.
Derrick Pereira, who is now the technical director of FC Goa, didn't need second thoughts about the possibility to sign me as he was the person to unlock my abilities, reveals Seriton.
"When Derrick saw my availability after a good season at Churchill Brothers, he wanted me at FC Goa. I kept on improving because Derrick showed immense faith in me and assisted me a lot while I was playing at unfamiliar full-back position."
Seriton also added that former FC Goa boss Sergio Lobera made him the player he is after nearly three years of continuous learning and guidance.
The right-back, who has become one of the prominent players in the league said: "I have never played under any Spanish coach before Sergio tutored me. He watched me from the sidelines when I was playing in a practice game, and corrected my flaws in the defensive and offensive aspects of the game. As the games went fast and thick, he always gave me lot of confidence."
FC Goa was statistically the best team in the Indian Super League last season, but they were hit hard by ill-fated luck. The Gaurs finished second in the league despite possessing superior goal difference, and lost the final to a 120th minute header from Bengaluru's Rahul Bheke.
It was their second final defeat in four years. It was a tough pill to swallow for the players, staffs, and fans, but coach Sergio Lobera motivated the whole team to come back to the grand finale, says Seriton.
"We played nearly three years under Sergio Lobera with same players, structure, and style. When we lost the finals in 2019, he wanted us to come back again stronger. He was very hungry to win the title this season."
After clinching the debut league trophy, Seriton is fully focused on bringing the Indian Super League trophy home.
"We believe that we can win the trophy this time. Also, we would like to dedicate the current league title to the staffs and fans of FC Goa."
FC Goa will have to wait until Chennaiyin play their final league game against Northeast United on Tuesday to determine their opponent in the Semifinals. The Gaurs will face either Chennaiyin FC or Bengaluru FC in the final four of the tournament.Published 23 Feb 2020, 07:54 IST