In March 2019, FC Goa, having negotiated their way past Mumbai City FC, found themselves back at the Mumbai Football Arena, with a summit clash against Bengaluru FC beckoning.
Unfortunately for the Gaurs though, they succumbed to a 117th minute Rahul Bheke header, meaning that they suddenly had nothing to show for their exemplary efforts during the group stages and indeed, the semi-final.
Subsequently, many opined that the 2019-20 season represented a term, wherein the ISL title would be Goa’s to lose, considering their ability to retain the core of their squad and supplement it with astute signings.
To that end, they began the current campaign like a side possessed, as they swept aside every challenge kept in front of them. In fact, they represented an extremely adept outfit at home and on the road, with a 4-2 victory at Mumbai testifying the above.
Yet, akin to the irregularities of football, a hint of an altercation between Sergio Lobera and the top brass of the club paved the way for the Gaurs to completely do away with the services of the Spaniard, despite the latter leading them to the perch of the table.
At that juncture, several expected Goa to wilt under the weight of an off-field controversy which didn’t only threaten to jeopardize their current season, but also sow the seeds of discontent for the campaigns to follow.
Fortunately, though, the Gaurs seem to have tided over those bumps, thereby again casting themselves as the side to beat in the ISL. Inevitably, they became the first outfit to pencil down a knock-out berth and courtesy their result against Jamshedpur FC, they also became the first team from the competition to earmark itself for an appearance at the AFC Champions League.
However, while Goa would understandably rejoice at their achievement of making the continent’s premier club competition, they still would know that their primary objective remains ending their ISL hoodoo.
Thus, as the tournament enters its home stretch, the time seems ripe to analyse FC Goa’s chances and highlight why the current term could be the one where a football crazy state quenches its thirst for glory.