Since Indian Super League’s (ISL) inception, Indian coaches have been crying foul over the rules that made them ineligible to manage a team. Those guidelines, which gave an edge to experienced foreign coaches over their local counterparts, have been watered down over the years. Yet, no Indian has landed the top job in the domestic league so far.
Now, former India international Clifford Miranda and one of the best tacticians, Derrick Pereira, have the opportunity to change that perception. The duo was, on Monday, handed over the club’s reins at the most crucial juncture of the season.
Miranda, who is currently interning with Red Bull Leipzig as a part of his AFC Pro Licence coaching program, has named the interim manager after Goa controversially sacked their Spanish coach Sergio Lobera over the weekend. Pereira, who coached Goa’s reserve side, has been named the technical director.
Turmoil at Goa
Quality-wise, India may still not match up to other leagues in Asia and Europe but there’s no dearth of drama. With 30 points from 15 matches, Goa are level on points with table toppers ATK but behind on goal difference (12 compared to ATK’s 17). Defending champions Bengaluru FC are just two points behind. Although the three teams are all but assured of a playoff spot, they are locked in an intense battle for the lone Asian Champions League berth – which will be awarded to the team finishing on top of the table.
FC Goa today has mutually parted ways with coach Sergio Lobera, Jesus Tato and Manuel Sayabera. The club thanks Sergio and his assistants for their services.
— FC Goa (@FCGoaOfficial) February 1, 2020
In the middle of this tense climax, Goa sacked Lobera, widely considered to be one of the best coaches in the ISL. The decision has left many scratching their heads. Lobera was appointed after the 2016 season when Goa – under Brazilian legend Zico – had finished at the bottom of the table. And he scripted an immediate turnaround, guiding Goa to semifinals in his first season, final in the second and then helping them win their first trophy, the Super Cup.
He did that by making his team play a highly entertaining and attacking brand of football – Lobera’s Goa scored the most number of goals in the last two seasons (in fact, their scored 128 goals in the 60 matches he was in charge of; the team won 34 of the 60 games, losing 15).
Yet, Goa chose to terminate his contract reportedly because of a dressing room feud and his demand for an improved contract for the next season. In a statement, Lobera termed the decision ‘unfortunate’ but did not get into the circumstances that led to it
Thus, Miranda and Pereira – who have both been assistants to Lobera – have been thrust into positions of responsibility.
Miranda’s first test as Goa’s manager will be at home against newcomers Hyderabad FC, who are at the bottom of the 10-team league with six points from 15 matches.
It is unlikely that Miranda, who is expected to join the team on Tuesday, and Pereira will make any drastic changes to Goa’s style at such a crucial juncture in the league. Like Lobera, they will rely on Goa’s talisman Ferran Corominas, fourth-highest scorer in the league, to get the job done against Hyderabad and put pressure on ATK, who take on a tricky Odisha FC on Saturday, and Bengaluru FC, for whom a stiff Chennaiyin challenge awaits on Sunday.
Any slip-up now would prove to be extremely costly for either of the three sides who are contesting for the continental spot. You’d expect Goa and the new coaching staff to enter the next matchday under considerable pressure. However, amidst the turmoil, Miranda and Pereira have a chance to make a case for Indian coaches, who have been waiting for such an opportunity since ISL began.
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