“Pressure? For playing football?” – FC Goa’s latest striker Airam Cabrera on joining the ISL, the challenge of living up to Coro, Angulo’s legacy and more [Exclusive]

Airam Cabrera is confident of making a mark in his maiden ISL season with the Gaurs. (Image Courtesy: FC Goa)
Airam Cabrera is confident of making a mark in his maiden ISL season with the Gaurs. (Image Courtesy: FC Goa)
Ritam Basu

FC Goa have a knack of producing top quality strikers in the Indian Super League. Be it the lethal Ferran Corominas or the clinical Igor Angulo, the Gaurs have a keen eye for Spanish goalmachines who show incredible scoring prowess year after year.

While Corominas bagged the ISL Golden Boot award for two consecutive seasons (18 goals in 2017-18 and 16 goals in 2018-19), Angulo was last season’s top scorer with 14 strikes in 21 appearances. With Angulo’s departure to reigning champions Mumbai City FC earlier this year, FCG began their hunt for a prolific striker who could replicate the success of his predecessors.

The player they ended up acquiring raised quite a few eyebrows. His previous stint with Polish top-flight side Wisla Plock yielded not a single goal. But as FCG’s director of football Ravi Puskur said in August, one has to give the scouting team “benefit of doubt”. The player, too, is desperate to make a mark in the ISL and prove his scoring abilities. He is 34-year old Airam Cabrera—FCG’s new no. 7.

In a recent chat with Sportskeeda, the former Villareal B striker revealed why he chose FC Goa, shared his assessment of his Indian teammates and spoke on the pressure of living up to the Gaurs’ striking legacy. Here are the excerpts:

Q: How has your time in India been so far? Have you gotten used to the conditions in Goa?

Cabrera: Well, I'm getting used to everything step by step. The food, especially, is the hardest change if you compare it to Spanish cuisine.

Q: Why did you choose FC Goa and the ISL? How much did your friend Javier Hernandez help you in your decision making?

Cabrera: I have heard it too many times from Spanish players who’ve played in India that the best team to play for in the ISL is FC Goa. It is because of the playing style, city, etc. The moment I received the offer, I knew what I had to do. Then again, as you mentioned earlier, my friend Javier Hernandez did the rest (smiles).

Q: FC Goa have many Spanish players in their ranks, namely Edu Bedia, Jorge Ortiz Mendoza, Alberto Noguera and Ivan Gonzalez. Do you feel at home with them?

Cabrera: Of course, it’s a good point for all of us. I know how it feels being in a team with many who speak your language. If we all go in the same direction, it will be easier to achieve success!

Q: How have your interactions with FCG head coach Juan Ferrando been so far?

Cabrera: Juan is a great coach as well as a great person. I consider him an open coach; you can go up to him and discuss whatever you want. I appreciate this quality in him. He is always ready to help, especially the young Indian players. He is the right person for FC Goa.

Q: From a technical perspective, what is your assessment of the Indian players in your team? How different are they from the ones playing in Spain's third division?

Cabrera: I don’t like to draw comparisons among footballers because in every place, there is a different style and method. But what I get from the Indian players is that they are hungry for learning and sometimes, that’s the most important thing. Indian football has grown a lot over the last few years and it will grow even further in the next few years. That’s the right way.

Q: FC Goa have a reputation of producing the best strikers in the ISL. I'm sure you are aware of this. Does that put added pressure on you?

Cabrera: I have a friend who says, "Pressure? For playing football? Come on! Pressure is when you can’t bring a food plate to your family. That’s real pressure.”

We consider ourselves privileged, so we have to enjoy this awesome work as much as possible.

Q: The last two seasons didn't go well for you, in terms of scoring. Do you think your FC Goa stint can turn things around? Do you have any personal targets in mind?

Cabrera: Of course. If I thought I was done, I wouldn’t be here. I didn’t leave my family, including two newborn babies, and didn't come to India just to waste my time. I’m still hungry and I want to feel important again; I want to find myself and help FC Goa achieve success. That’s it.

Q: Among the Indians, who have become your closest friends at FC Goa so far? Have you learnt any Konkani from them?

Cabrera: I appreciate all of them. Most of them are quite younger than me, so I try to help them as much as possible and be close to them after football. We play carom, table tennis and FIFA. They destroy me in FIFA but I’m improving (laughs). We have to fight together on the pitch and off it as well. The closer you are, the stronger the team will be.

[Regarding Konkani] I’ve just learnt “Thank you”, but I don’t know how to write it. (laughs).

FC Goa will begin their ISL-8 campaign with their “away” clash against defending champions Mumbai City FC in Fatorda on November 22.

Edited by Shourjo Chatterjee
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