The Season Thus Far: FC Goa U-18s sparkle in Hero Elite League, set sights on glory

posted in Specials by Sarthak Sharma on 26th March 2020

posted in Specials

by Sarthak Sharma

on 26th March 2020

The Season Thus Far: FC Goa U-18s sparkle in Hero Elite League, set sights on glory

FC Goa has been previously applauded for its focused youth program, and it appears that the youngsters are continuing to repay the faith shown in them by the club.

The U-18s division of the club has always been considered a stepping stone to the Developmental Team and eventually the FC Goa first team, and success here can often result in players being noticed throughout the country.

With the footballing calendar currently suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it gives us an opportunity to take a look back at the brilliant performances of the Gaur teenagers in the Hero Elite League, and observe the challenges that lie ahead.

After performing well last season in the competition, the U-18s would have always fancied trying to go on and win the whole thing, and they have taken a huge step towards doing so by finishing top of the Goa standings.

Finding themselves alongside able competitors in SESA Football Academy, Sporting Clube de Goa, Salgaocar FC and Dempo Sports Club, qualifying to the final rounds was always going to be challenging, but the youngsters stood tall and proved their mettle.

A tricky first game against Dempo was the litmus test for the players at the very start of the campaign, and while it may have been tempting to ease their way through the competition, the Gaurs were having none of it.

Against a robust Dempo side, Coach Gavin Araujo’s side ran riot, scoring three goals and conceding none.

That 3-0 victory laid the foundations of what was to come, and with every single game, the Gaurs got stronger.

A 1-0 win over a very game Sporting side confirmed the team’s position as one of the heavyweights in the group, and the youngsters showed character to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to Salgaocar, by seeing off SESA 1-0 in the following game.

The battle at the top of the group standings was between Dempo and FC Goa, and the stage was set for an interesting clash between the two local giants next.

The Gaurs may have beaten their rivals comfortably last time out, but had to toil hard to get a result this time, and conceded a goal late on that saw the game drawn 1-1.

It was still a solid result against a competitive team however, and a clean sheet followed in a 0-0 draw with Sporting, before the Gaur teens comfortably saw off Salgaocar 3-1 to tighten their grip at the top.

The final game was to be played against SESA, and a win was needed to confirm top spot, and the boys pulled it off with ease, winning the game 4-2 and finishing just ahead of Dempo.

The result confirmed top spot and a position in the final rounds of the Hero Elite League for the third consecutive year, and one of the reasons for the dominant display may have been their consistent style of football.

“The style of play is aligned from the youth team to the Developmental team and all the way through to the first team. This helps the players transition easily when they get called up to the first team,” Coach Gavin Araujo says about his team’s philosophy.

That philosophy appears to have worked wonders, with goals being scored and defending proving sturdy as well, the proof being that the Gaurs kept four clean sheets during their run domestically this season.

With football currently at a standstill, hopes are that the next phase of competition will not be delayed, especially since the U-18s have a chance to avenge defeat from last season, and aim for the Hero Elite League crown.

“We’re more confident this time around because the core of the team is intact and the boys know what it takes to go and win,” Coach Gavin remarks on his side’s aspirations in the tournament.

The U-18s saw 8 different players score goals during the campaign with Joybert Almeida, Vasim Imamdar, Velroy Fernandes and Brison Fernandes all grabbing two goals each, and rest assured their contribution will be crucial once football returns and the Gaurs continue their push towards Elite League glory.