FC Goa left-back Sanson Pereira spoke about his team's maiden AFC Champions League campaign in Part 2 of an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda. The intensity of the game, the playing standards and his thoughts on FC Goa's performance were some of the topics that were touched on. Here are the edited excerpts:
"The intensity of the AFC Champions League was high" — FC Goa's Sanson Pereira
Sanson Pereria played all six games of the AFC Champions League as the primary left-back for FC Goa, replacing Saviour Gama, who was the first choice for the role in ISL 2021.
Describing the situation leading up to that point, Pereira said:
''The coach always gave me confidence and to begin with, it was a case of me making the best of an opportunity. And that is something every senior player told me throughout the season, that I have to wait for my opportunity. I think I did well to make the best of the opportunity I got. Gama is a very good player as well. He is like a brother to me. Leading up to the AFC Champions League, he was unable to practice before the first game as Princeton (Rebello) had a scare. His COVID test came back positive - which we later got to know was a false positive. Since (Savior) Gama was his roommate, he had to be quarantined as well in a separate room for some time."
Contrary to popular belief, Juan Ferrando's FC Goa went against all odds to finish third in the AFC Champions League, even drawing three games with Al-Rayyan (both home and away) and Al Wahda.
Pereira shed some light on his team's approach by saying:
''We always went into every game looking to win it. The only thing was that we knew that we had to be more compact without the ball and stay focused all the time. The intensity of the games in the AFC Champions League was really high."
"You do not get time to think in the AFC Champions League" — FC Goa's Sanson Pereira
FC Goa became the first ever Indian football club to ply their trade in the group stages of the AFC Champions League. The ACL is a notch above the standards of ISL and Pereira talks briefly about the difference in playing style and standards.
Summing up the intensity of the matches in the ACL, Pereira told Sportskeeda:
"The rhythm, the pace, the intensity etc was all so much faster. We had to get used to that. I think we did well. In the ISL, you receive a ball and on most occasions, the press from the opposition is not so fast. Sometimes you can think about whether you want to pass or run forward. In the AFC Champions League, you don’t get much time to think.''
FC Goa gained praise around the Indian football fraternity for pulling off three draws and getting a three-point board. Initially pegged by fans and the media to end up rock bottom in their group, the Gaurs more than proved their doubters wrong.
Himself aware of the sentiments at the start of the season, Pereira had this to say about it all:
'I think we've performed well. The talk ahead of the tournament was how badly we’re going to lose the game. But we gave a good account of ourselves in the games. We are a bit sad that we couldn’t win one game, but the experience was really good. Everyone was pleased.''
The exposure at AFC Champions League group-stage has allowed the Indian players to understand and evaluate the playing standards of the best Asian clubs in comparison with the Indian football clubs.
Highlighting up the importance of coming together and working as a team, Pereira said:
''It just threw open a door to a level of football we're not accustomed to. Having had a taste of the same, we really want to play in the Champions League again. It has helped us push ourselves - both personally and as a team. We learned the importance of playing as a team in this competition.''