New Delhi: No state has dominated domestic football in the last decade quite like Goa. Ever since the National Football League was re-christened to the I-League in 2007, Goan clubs have won 6 out of the 7 editions.
Leading the way have been Panaji-based Dempo Sport Club, who have been crowned champions on five occasions in since 2004. A core group of local players has been the highlight of the successful Dempo campaigns over the years. The baton seems to have been passed from Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli to Mandar Desai and Alwyn George, but the core philosophy of building a winning team around local players remains consistent.
Most of the Dempo lads were drafted into the FC Goa team for the Indian Super League. Unlike other franchises (except NorthEastUnited FC), the Goan team is comprised of Dempo's I-League squad and has not been assembled just for this new league. Hence they already have an advantage to begin with.
Apart from a team comprising of the best young local talent, FC Goa has plenty of experienced players in veteran India international Clifford Miranda and one of I-League's best foreign striker Tolgay Ozbey. Despite bringing a high profile manager like Zico on board, assistant manager and other backroom staff is from Dempo.
Former Gunner Robert Pires has signed on as a marquee player and from his form in the warm up games it appears as though the Frenchman is well suited to FC's Goa footballing philosophy. Another key addition is that of Brazilian Andre Santos, who could not make an impact at Arsenal, but is clearly one of the best players on show in the ISL.
Teams visiting Margao's Fatorda stadium will also have to deal with a hostile Goan crowd that will gather in huge numbers to support their team. In the I-League, with multiple teams from Goa, the loyalty of fans is divided. However, with one Goa team in the ISL, fans are expected to throng to the stadium for every home game of FC Goa.
Solid foundations for a successful campaign have been laid by FC Goa, a team that is co-owned by cricket superstar Virat Kohli, Videocon, and Goa's leading industrialists Dattaraj Salgaoncar and Srinivas Dempo. Now it is a matter for the team to perform on the pitch as they kick-off their ISL journey against Chennaiyin FC, with the fans hoping that FC Goa can replicate Dempo's success.