FC Goa assured themselves of a fourth successive place in the Hero ISL playoffs this Sunday. The Gaurs eked out a goalless draw last Sunday – their first in 51 games to book themselves the last spot in the semis this season.
Leading the charge this season has been Edu Bedia. The midfielder has been instrumental in the blueprint that Juan Ferrando drew up in his very first season at the helm. In his first season as club captain, the Spaniard has become the pivotal man in the middle of the park.
He leads the league in passes, helping the Gaurs control the tempo and directing the game as per their comforts.
With a host of new names and a short pre-season, the start wasn’t the smoothest. However, to rebuild on the go and make the playoffs yet again has been a testament of its own. Looking back at the campaign, Bedia described how the journey has been so far.
“It has been a difficult season, we started as a very young team with many new faces. However, with a lot of work that was put in by all, we have become the team that plays the best football and one of the best in terms of competing with all,” Bedia elaborated.
“The mentality that we have had throughout the season has been the same. All we have looked to do is work hard and improve every day. It hasn’t changed one bit. Putting in the grind was the only way we could have achieved success. And I am proud of the team for having been able to.”
Bedia’s fortunes have fluctuated in previous years. Whilst he was pivotal to the cause in the first two seasons in FC Goa colours, his appearances were sporadic last time around with nagging injuries showing up time and again.
This year, he has been omnipresent. And that, in turn, has led to more consistent performances from the Spaniard.
“Without a doubt, I am having my best season in the ISL. I have played in the position that I like the most and where I feel I can help the team the most,” the Spaniard opined. “I am feeling excellent physically, and I am looking forward to playing the ISL playoffs and the AFC Champions League.
January saw the Gaurs being busy in the transfer market with four new faces, viz. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Adil Khan, Glan Martins and Amarjit Singh Kiyam joining the squad. That meant for even more rejig in the squad. Bedia, however, feels that the signings have made FC Goa a much better team than to start the season.
“The truth is that it has been pretty straightforward in terms of integrating them into the system,” exclaimed the skipper. “The players who have joined this winter have strengthened us a lot. I think that with Glan, Adil, Amarjit and Dheera,j we are a stronger team.”
And now comes Mumbai.
The semi-finals have brought about an intriguing fixture as the Gaurs will look to get the better of a familiar foe and some familiar faces as they look to book their place in the ISL final for the third time.
Mumbai City FC has enjoyed success this season with a number of former Gaurs in their ranks and the reins being in the hands of former FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera.
For FC Goa, they will be missing a number of key players in the first leg owing to injuries and suspension. Bedia though remains unfazed in the face of the challenge on hand.
“I am pretty relaxed if you ask me because we work as a team. The team – the union of all of us, not only the players but also the coaching staff and other staff – that’s our true strength. We are a family where everyone will go to battle for each other. That’s our real strength. And when you have that, nothing scares you,” added the 31-year-old.
“We don’t care which eleven comes out to play. We all know what we have to do. We might some absences for the first game, but we have players who are prepared to replace them. Whoever plays, we will be the same team as always.”