FC Goa’s historic maiden voyage into Asian continental football was given further shape today as they were drawn into Group E of the 2021 AFC Champions League alongside defendng West Region champions Persepolis (Iran), Al Rayyan (Qatar), and the Winners of Play-off West 4 that will be between UAE’s Al-Wahda and Iraq’s Al-Zawraa.
The Gaurs made history last season, winning the ISL League Winners’ Shield and thus booking their place in the group stages of the 2021 AFC Champions League. This is the first time an Indian club would be participating in the group stages of the tournament.
Persepolis were runners-up in the AFC Champions League last season and have won the Persian Gulf Pro League for the last 4 seasons. Al-Rayyan, meanwhile are 8 times champions of the Qatar Stars League and qualified for the 2021 editions of the AFC Champions League owing to their runners-up finish in the 2019–20 Qatar Stars League.
“The AFC Champions League is the biggest competition in Asia, so we were expecting nothing but the toughest of competitions. It’s a great opportunity for the club and the players to get some really valuable experience. It’s also a big responsibility for us as we are the first-ever club from India to participate in this competition,” stated FC Goa Head Coach Juan Ferrando on the draw and the road ahead in the AFC Champions League.
“The mentality of my team and the Club is to always go for three points in every game we play. The games in the AFC Champions League are going to be very difficult. What we have to do is not move away from th mentality we have and look to be completely focussed in every passage of play.”
FC Goa’s Director of Football, Ravi Puskur also added his thoughts and reactions to the draw. He said, “We are excited to be finally be looking ahead to play in the (AFC) Champions League. The wait has been long. It has been nearly one year since we sealed our place in the Champions League.
“We have been looking forward to this with much excitement and after the draw I feel we finally have digested the fact that we are going to be a part of the competition.
“In regards to the draw, I would say it’s ‘baptism by fire’. We face Persepolis, who were the champions of West Asia. On our part, I feel this is a brilliant opportunity for both our Indian and foreign contingent to get exposed to a whole different level of football at the Asian stage. It gives an equal opportunity to the Club to get more exposure and experience a different level of fanfare.”
The AFC Champions League Group Stage West Region matches will be scheduled between April 14-30, 2021.