‘Character’ – one word that you get to hear time and again when you speak to Ivan Gonzalez. And it’s not really surprising why. The Real Madrid Academy graduate has many a time, proven to be a player of great character.
Last season, he was entrusted by Cultural Leonesa to lead their charge for a promotion push. Handed the captain’s armband at the beginning of the season, he quickly set the tone for a season that saw them beat Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey before forcing a draw at the end of regular time against Valencia.
You don’t do that unless you have character in the team and a real belief in the ranks. And a leader like Gonzalez is the key to it all.
“I’m one who likes to lead by example. I like to set the tone,” quips Gonzalez in his first-ever interview with fcgoa.in. “I like to bring energy onto the field. Being the captain, you have to think that you need to do something more than just perform yourself. You have to play in such a way or be assertive enough in other aspects that the whole team plays well.”
In signing for FC Goa, Gonzalez also reunites with a couple of familiar faces. The defender had worked with the new gaffer Juan Ferrando during his time with Cultural Leonesa and played alongside fellow Spaniard Jorge Ortiz.
“I am very excited to play for a club as important as FC Goa,” adds the newest Gaur. “I have spoken with the Coach and he has always been someone who is very firm in his beliefs. He expressed his desire for me to be part of this exciting project in Goa. Having played under him, knowing the style of football and the players getting in, I had no doubts that I wanted in.”
A new season, a new challenge
The new season has seen an overhaul in personnel. A new Head Coach is set to be accompanied by new names from both India and abroad. The philosophy, the style and the objectives, though, remain the same.
“I know Goa is the defending League Champions and I will be replacing players who have done really well for the club over the past few seasons. However, personal challenges are very important to me and this is one of them – to keep Goa at the top. That was the aim from the very moment I started talking with the club.
“Knowing that they are the first Indian team to qualify for the group stages of the AFC Champions League is a great responsibility and I love that. It was one of the biggest factors as to why I joined the club. As I said, I love challenges, and this is going to be a good one.”
The intriguing project
In 6 years, FC Goa has created a niche for itself in Indian football. The Gaurs have established themselves as the ‘flair team’ in the ISL, thanks to its rambunctious yearning to attack and an insatiable desire to taste the back of the net.
Goa have ended up as the highest scorers in 4 of the 6 seasons in the league whilst recording the highest points on 3 occasions. This has been accompanied by records of being the only team to have recorded 50 wins and 200 goals in this short span.
And Gonzalez, himself, was taken a bit aback.
“I had always wanted to play abroad and when FC Goa came in, I thought it would be a great opportunity for both me and the family to experience something new,” added the 30-year-old.
“I loved the place, and everything I heard about it, but most importantly, it was the style of football they played. I saw several FC Goa matches and frankly, I was surprised. The team plays a very dynamic game with some really talented players. And the mindset is to pass, to build up and always attack.
“This fits in perfectly with my qualities. I am a fast defender, I like to anticipate and steal balls from forwards. I feel comfortable playing the ball from behind. For the FC Goa fans, I would say that you can expect a player who doesn’t shy away from any challenge on the field and brings a lot of energy in each play.
“I hope that soon they will be able to cheer us on as they usually do in the stadium and I am able to meet them in person. For now, I wish all of them great health, I am waiting for the time that they can show me all the love that there is for football in this great state.”