Football

Lobera a tough act to emulate

Sergio Lobera.

Sergio Lobera.  

The reason for his sack at FC Goa unclear.

FC Goa’s reputation for continuity took a blow when, for the first time since its entry into the Indian Super League, the chief coach headed for the exit door as the competition approaches the knockout phase.

Sergio Lobera being asked to leave is strange, going by the Goa franchise management’s style of giving the carefully-chosen professional manager enough room to run the show, from player recruitment to choosing support staff to football operations.

Zico called the shots from 2014-2016 as the first coach, drafting World Cup defender Lucio into the side as marquee player/captain and moulding the team as per his vision. Andre Santos, Leo Moura, and Jonathan Lucca were the other Brazilians contracted by the franchise. They finally made way for a Spaniard with a lower profile. The new-look FCG then achieved twin objectives from 2017 to 2019 — success on the pitch and popularity with the fans.

Hazy

In the absence of an official communication, the reasons for a club snapping links with a proven coach are hazy. What is clear though is that the Spaniard’s knack in moulding the players to play eye-catching, effective football had won over the fans. After the ups and downs (season one semifinalist, season two finalist, and season three last team in the league) under Zico, matching the highs under Lobera will be a tough act to emulate.

Zico in the dugout and Brazilians in the line-up revived Goan interest in football watching. Lobera’s team then got them hooked with a brand of playing close to Goan hearts. The Gaurs wove passing patterns on the pitch, mastered one-touch play, scored goals in plenty and qualified for the semifinal and the final in consecutive seasons. With three games left in ISL season six and a semifinal berth confirmed, the next coach faces a tough task in matching Zico and Lobera’s feat of developing Goan footballers.

The rise of Mandar

Mandar Dessai’s rise from an attacking option on the left wing under the Brazilian, to promotion as captain in a new role as overlapping left wing-back is a huge step taken by the Spaniard. The Goan — with ball-playing skills and armed with a lethal left-foot — earned an India call-up after his displays with FCG last season.

Other Goans emerging as competent performers in Lobera’s presence over two seasons were defender Seriton Fernandes, attacking midfielders Brandon Fernandes and Lenny Rodrigues. The Spaniard and his support team (assistant coach Jesus Tato from Spain) deserve credit for bringing out the best in a group of hard-working Indians and hand-picked foreigners. Together, they brought back the crowds to Nehru stadium, Margao, the Gaurs’ home base.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:52:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/lobera-a-tough-act-to-emulate/article30720065.ece

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