Indian Super League (ISL) outfit FC Goa were the most prominent side in the 2019-20 season. The Gaurs finished at the top of the table and will become the first-ever club from India to play in the AFC Champions League Group stage.
The Gaurs have seen a complete personnel overhaul ahead of the upcoming season. Among the many signings, Ivan Gonzalez has been brought to India to take over the defensive duties for Juan Ferrando's side.
Ivan Gonzalez recently had an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, in which he talked about his playing career, his ambitions with FC Goa, the role of Juan Ferrando in his career and his favourite moments as a player.
Ivan Gonzalez was the captain of Spanish Segunda B side Cultural Leonesa till the end of the 2019-20 season. When asked if his move to FC Goa was a drastic decision, he said:
"I was the captain of Cultural Leonesa for the last 4 years. It was amazing to be part of this team and a bigger honour to be the captain. However, I thought that it was the perfect moment to take another challenge in my career and what better place than a place like Goa and a team like FC Goa."
Ivan Gonzalez also spoke about the impact of the coronavirus-induced lockdown on football club finances, player wages, team performances and individual fitness. Addressing the matter in respect to Spanish football, he said:
'It has been so hard and I think the worst is yet to come, to be honest. Without fans and sponsors, it will be a difficult time for every sport. But we have to hold strong and do everything we can to help each other out.'
Ivan Gonzalez entered the esteemed La Fabrica, the youth academy of Real Madrid, in 2002 and graduated from the same in 2008. He then went on to play four seasons with the Real Madrid third team till 2012.
Speaking about his time in the Los Blancos setup, Ivan Gonzalez said:
"I played for Real Madrid for 11 years since I was 10 years old. I have always said that I was lucky to have been a part of this organisation, the best academy in the world for football. You have everything but every day is an exam since from a very young. It’s not easy and you have to have the appetite to get through the grind every day from a very young age. It’s not for everyone."
Ivan Gonzalez has spent his entire career playing in Spain. He has played over 200 official games for clubs like Deportivo Fabril, Union Conquense, Racing Ferrol and Cultural Leonesa. FC Goa will, therefore, be his first stint outside Spain.
The 30-year-old expressed his excitement at his new challenge in India. He said:
"I love Asia and it’s great for me and my family. I love personal challenges and this is the biggest of my career. It’s the first time out of my country, but we are going to a good city (Goa) where they love football and that’s very important."
When asked about the pressure to perform and become a potential replacement for outgoing defender Mourtada Fall, Ivan Gonzalez said:
"Fall is Fall and I am Iván González. We are different and I don’t like the comparisons. He was great for the team and he was loved by the fans. I will give the best I can on the pitch and I will help all my teammates to be great again in the ISL and the AFC Champions League. I’m sure they will love what they see from on me in every game."
We will have an edge with Juan Ferrando as coach: Ivan Gonzalez
Ivan Gonzalez had previously played under FC Goa head coach Juan Ferrando at Cultural Leonesa. He spoke highly of the 'Gaffer of the Gaurs' and declared Ferrando as the perfect coach for the Goa-based franchise:
"I know him and I believe that he is the perfect coach for the FC Goa style. He is very intelligent and a very hard worker. He has full support from the management and players and we have the same as well. He is the right man to set in a good work ethic to start the season and then start taking care of the details we go on. We will have an edge towards being successful again with Juan as the coach."
FC Goa have promoted talented youngsters like Saviour Gama, Devendra Murgaonkar, Phrangki Buam, Makan Chote and Princeton Rebello to the first team.
Ivan Gonzalez highlighted the importance of having such youngsters in the side, saying:
"Players like us, who have more experience have to help the youngsters improve every day in every training. This league is a bit short and for this very reason, the little details and work ethic for the same are more important than ever if we want to be successful. We have a lot of youngsters and it’s on players like us to lead the way and see that they remain focussed as well."
The 7th season of the Indian Super League will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Emphasising the importance of fans in the game, Ivan Gonzalez said:
'It will be different for all of us. Playing without fans is not normal and it’s not like we want to. However, we have to adapt to the new normal and be the best within that new normal. We have to be more focused than ever.'
When asked about his favourite moment as a player, Ivan Gonzalez recalled:
"The best moments in my professional player was when I helped Cultural Leonesa get promoted to the Segunda Division after 43 years. We made history that. And I hope my other best moments are yet to come and hopefully in an FC Goa shirt."Published 12 Oct 2020, 09:10 IST