Champions League - Biggest learning experience for the team: FC Goa's Sanson Pereira
In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, FC Goa full-back Sanson Pereira opened up about life in the big league and his first full season with the Gaurs.
After a highly promising debut Indian Super League (ISL) campaign and an even better outing in the subsequent AFC Champions League (ACL), Sanson Pereira is on cloud 9. To add to that, he has just signed a new three-year deal with FC Goa which proves how highly he is rated by the decision-makers at the club. The Bridge sat down with the young left-back recently and together we tried to make sense of the whirlwind 12 months that he has had. And one could see just why he has been such a dependable player for his side from the way he reflects on all that has happened this past year. Excerpts:
Having come through Goa's local divisions for Salgaocar FC, how has the first season with FC Goa been for you in terms of getting used to a higher level of football?
It was a great learning experience. I think I learnt a lot this season. The ISL was really fast as compared to the Goa Pro League. The league is filled with quality foreign players, which you don't get to see in the Goa Pro League. That makes a big difference. I feel I had a good season but would have liked to play more. I will take that as motivation going into the new season.
How long did it take you to get comfortable with Juan Ferrando's playing style after joining the club?
It was tough for the first month. It takes time to understand what the coach wants to implement and the style he wants to play with - especially someone as tactical as Juan Ferrando. He helped me a lot to understand the different things he wanted to do on the pitch. There was a video session ahead of every training, which really helped me a lot.
Your positional rivalry with Saviour Gama is something that a lot of Gaurs fans will be looking forward to. How is your relationship with him?
He is like a brother to me, like a brother from another mother. It's a really healthy competition. He tells me anytime I make a mistake. He is someone I have learnt a lot from this season.
What are the in-game instructions that experienced centre-backs like Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie pass on which help a youngster like you learn new things?
They are very experienced. They were vital to our performances. They not only have a big physical presence at the back but are also really good on the ball. We play out from the back, so having them in the team was crucial. They also understand the needs of the coach and the philosophy we want to play with.
For me personally, they have been very helpful. Their presence gave me more confidence to do what I do well. And they always help you, even if you make a mistake. You need that calmness around you when you are on the pitch.
How was the experience of playing against Asia's best players in the ACL, that too just after your first full ISL season?
It was a great experience. It was like a sudden rise in the level of competition that we are normally used to, but we were all prepared for it. We had all watched enough tape and knew what was coming at us.
I would even say the Champions League was the biggest learning experience for me and the team this season.
Who are your best mates in the team? How easy or difficult was it to break the ice with your teammates initially?I would say my best mate in the team is Glan Martins. It was not that tough to break the ice with others in the squad to be honest. Devendra (Murgaokar) joined me from Salgaocar as well. I already knew a lot of guys in the team, having played against them in youth tournaments and then the Goa Pro League. So, it was not that tough.
What do you consider to be your biggest strength and an area that you need to work on?
I would say my composure on the ball is one of my biggest strengths. I like playing with the ball and so I am always looking to be involved.
My biggest weakness, I feel is my shooting. I will be working towards improving that.
What are your aspirations for the upcoming season? When do you realistically see yourself breaking into the national team?
My biggest aspiration this coming year will be to get more minutes in the league. I started only one game in the ISL. I want to get more starts and that, I hope, will lead to a national team call-up soon.