ISL 2020-21 Podcast: Sergio Lobera discusses his coaching philosophy; FC Goa's Ravi Puskur explains bio-bubble arrangements

In this special episode of our football podcast, we bring you two very insightful interviews from the ISL. Mumbai City FC's Sergio Lobera speaks on his coaching philosophy and what winning means to him. FC Goa's Director of Football Ravi Puskur explains the comprehensive arrangements the club and league have made in the bio-bubble to safely conduct the ongoing season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how the Goan club is tackling the psychological impact of staying in a restricted environment.

FP Sports December 15, 2020 10:56:12 IST
ISL 2020-21 Podcast: Sergio Lobera discusses his coaching philosophy; FC Goa's Ravi Puskur explains bio-bubble arrangements

Images of Mumbai City FC coach Sergio Lobera (L) and FC Goa team. Credit: Twitter/@MumbaiCityFC/@FCGoaOfficial

In the third episode of More Than A Game, a Firstpost football podcast, we bring you two very special and insightful interviews from the Indian Super League (ISL).

Mumbai City FC coach Sergio Lobera in conversation with Amit Kamath explains his coaching philosophy and what winning means to him. FC Goa's Director of Football Ravi Puskur shares the comprehensive arrangements the club and league have made in the bio-bubble to safely conduct the ongoing season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how the Goan club is tackling the psychological impact of staying in a restricted environment.

Lobera, a former youth and assistant Barcelona coach, has earned a name for himself with his possession-based attacking football. In his three seasons at the FC Goa, Lobera transformed The Gaurs into one of the most attractive-looking footballing sides in India. He is now with the City Football Group-owned Mumbai City FC who currently lead the league table in ISL.

In this interview, the Spaniard coach also reveals which team and coach he sees as an example to follow for Mumbai.

Here's an excerpt from the interview, listen to the podcast to catch the entire conversation.

Kamath: You are known for the style of play your teams display and the philosophy. What shaped this idea that you want your teams to play in this way?

Lobera: I started at Football Club of Barcelona, so obviously my footballing education came from there. I’ve always believed in this philosophy: that it is possible to win and possible to entertain people (at the same time). I want fans to enjoy my team's play during the 90 minutes, not only when the game is over. I always felt that that’s the way to win, by playing attacking football. It’s also good for the team because players enjoy playing this style of football. It’s good for the supporters.

Kamath: You’ve been in India for over three years — first as manager of FC Goa and now as Mumbai City FC boss. Have you had to evolve your philosophy a little bit due to what you’ve seen with the Indian Super League?

Lobera: Obviously, it is not easy — I’ve worked in three different countries so far — getting your teams to try and play the same way. Always I try to get my teams to play in the same way. I get my players to adapt, but the most important thing is that the players believe in this style of football. This is very important. As a coach, it gets easy only if the players believe in this. Obviously, it is not easy to implement a newer style of play in two weeks or one month. It takes some time. As you know, it was not the same for my FC Goa teams in the first season and the second season, and the third season. So we had a big challenge because we had a short time in pre-season to prepare the team. The other challenge is the short time between games. But this is my job as a coach. It is very important to implement a newer style of play, but also very important to win.

Kamath: How important is winning the right way for you? Is it more important than actually winning?

Lobera: (Winning) is the most important thing. As a coach when you’re working on a big project such as Mumbai City FC, obviously the most important thing is to win, but for us, and me as a coach, the most important thing is how we are winning. If you put your focus only on winning maybe you will lose (more games than if you focus on how you’re winning). As a professional coach, you also need your team to win, because your job depends on this. Mumbai City FC and City Football Group have made a big effort to build a very good team. We have to implement a newer style of play, but the most important thing, finally, is to win also.

In the second interview, Goa's Puskur shares how a dedicated team is working around the clock to ensure that the players don't come in contact with people from outside the bio-bubble and all that they have done to allow the athletes to disconnect from the game when not playing or training.

Here's an excerpt from the interview, listen to the podcast to catch the entire conversation.

Ujwal: Can you give me details about the arrangements that have been made inside the bio-bubble especially from the perspective of FC Goa?

Puskur: The bubble that we are in is a pretty safe and secure space in terms of how it is protected from the rest of the people that we might be coming in contact with. From staying to playing, protocols are pretty stringent. In terms of the hotel, we are only on one floor and are not allowed to interact with any other guests or have access to spaces that they would possibly frequent during their stay here. We are in our own spaces. Our gym timings are completely cut off from the other hotel people that are staying here, so the amount of frequent contact that we would have from people from outside is minimal to that point that people who serve us are also inside the bubble and dedicated to us. There are a specific set of people who only look after us and nobody else. They are also not allowed to go home or go outside the bubble. They are staying in the same hotel rooms as we are. Even our bus drivers who drive us are also with us inside (the bubble). Even at the training ground, we have taken extensive precautions to ensure we are the only one using the facility and there's nobody else coming into contact with us, the sanitation process is very thorough. Everything that is being used is being completely sanitised. We are also tested with the RT-PCR test on every second or third-day basis which the league is conducting on a regular basis so if anyone is infected we would know immediately and precautions will be taken thereafter.

Ujwal: It's challenging for anyone when you stay in a restricted environment especially for months and more so in a highly-competitive environment like ISL. Have you hired a mental coach to keep the players' spirits high?

Puskur: When you are in a situation where it is a high-pressure environment because it is a result-based industry and people around you are the same all the time, effectively you are at your workplace 24x7 for the next four-five months. So yes, we do try to work with them, we have a consultant on board who is helping with the mental conditioning of the players. We also have taken added steps as a coaching, technical staff, and management so that we are constantly in touch with the players to try to speak with them, all of our doors are wide open for them to come in and speak to us at whatever point of time. We also have created spaces where they have the opportunity to disconnect from the game and general atmosphere that we live in. It's a big process of team building, we are trying to create events for them when perhaps there's no training, to try and distract their mind.

Ujwal: Are there any recreational arrangements? What arrangements have been made for players to disconnect from the game?

Puskur: We have got a recreational space that is dedicated to the players where we have made arrangements like we have set up a PlayStation, we have a gaming room where they can go, play and not worry about things. We have got a nice place in the hotel as well, on the roof, where they can go see the sunset, there's space there for them to relax as well. We also conduct sessions on a weekly basis where we have team bonding sessions - where we do things as a team but it has nothing to do with football, it might have people singing, dancing, it might be things which may take you away from the general focus on the game.

This podcast has been edited by Aadi Nair

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