Juan Ferrando, head coach of Indian Super League club FC Goa, cherishes participating in international competitions like the Champions League and Europa League while he was coaching FC Sheriff.
He is a lone figure standing transfixed in consternation at the edge of the pitch as he shouts to his team, hands flailing and gesturing to catapult FC Goa towards victory. Head coach Juan Ferrando is among the youngest coaches at the ISL (second youngest), and he came in when the team was depleted after the last season saw the former coach take away many players. He had his job cut out, and many a challenge that he had to circumvent and surpass. In fact, seeing FC Goa play in the AFC Cup and the ISL with their playmaking and attacking formations has restored much confidence in this new team that is still learning the ropes. For the time to come, Ferrando has his work cut out, and he is meeting it head on, the only way to see success in the beautiful game.
That said, let us take a step back to a young lad growing up in the mecca of football, Barcelona. It was an environment that nurtured football, as it became intrinsic to life.
Looking back head coach Juan Ferrando says, “Since I was eight-years-old, I was recruited by FC Barcelona and La Masia was my home for 10 years. My life there was devoted to football and to improve as a football player.”
Juan was many among the milieu in Europe. An injury prone start saw Ferrando commence his managerial career at just 18. Studying at the school of RCD Espanyol, he was campus and methodological coordinator. His study of football practice was at the famed FC Barcelona B. After which Juan managed CE Premià, Terrassa and Hospitalet.
In the 2012−2013 season, as part of the technical staff of La Liga club Málaga, he was appointed head coach of the club›s youth team, then he was assistant coach at Moldovan National Division champions Sheriff Tiraspol, and as head coach won the Moldovan Super Cup.
About his transition from player to coach, Juan says, “While I was recovering from some discomfort as a player, I began to collaborate with the RCD Espanyol youth soccer school. There I began to see football from another perspective and the option of working as a coach attracted me.”
Then it was to Greece till in April 2020 after much deliberation, he was appointed head coach of Hero Indian Super League club FC Goa.
Facing challenges has made Juan more philosophical and thoughtful, he feels that only resilience can tide over hard times. “Life is full of challenges, and we should learn to overcome these in the best way possible. What I have learnt from all I have experienced so far is that you have to be positive and surround yourself with the people who support you and make you wake up every day with a smile.”
Now, surrounded with the team, he is busy in technical sessions, training, working on strategy and trying to make each of those players believe in themselves.
His management style is very people-centric, prod him and he says, “I always try to be as fair as possible when evaluating players’ games, and reaching the best decisions for the team. This has stayed with me from when I was in Europe. To be honest, in every season, I have had positive experiences not just related to winning leagues or promotions but also by participating in international competitions like the Europa League.”
The pandemic has changed the way football is played, empty stadiums and isolation can be demotivating. “It is not an easy situation to handle. The bubble does not allow players to enjoy Goa, and the outdoors, so our days are between hotel rooms, the restaurant and video room. We do our best to offset this against dynamic and enjoyable training sessions,” says Juan who has had his share of injuries, and a dark period when he contracted an infection that led to loss of sight for some time. In those dark days, Juan was faced with not just the cessation of his deep love for football, but he started appreciating the sights, sounds and blessings more.
The Barcelona resident is known to be close to Dutch footballer Robin Van Persie and Spanish mid fielder Cesc Fabregas. “Persie is a great professional, we spent time working even after his training sessions, and not just with physio and tried to research better on the rival for the next match. He loved his job immensely as a football player. I was part of the staff in charge of the training management and recovery. With Cesc, I enjoyed a remarkably interesting work experience at Arsenal Football Club. He is a great professional, we continued working before and after training. Sometimes, we battled on PlayStation (FIFA) in our free time. He was exceptionally good at that too!” smiles Ferrando who is among those who don’t have families with them at the ISL. Caution and safety were of utmost importance. Christmas was a Gaur (which is the Indian bison, Goa’s state animal) affair no doubt, and about his family, he adds, “We were in touch through video calls, to see what Santa got my boys,” says the father who misses his family, and the festivities in Espana now. He adds, “I guess this year, the festive season is different across the world. In Spain, we celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, and the Three Kings’ Day on January 6. However, as per Spanish government guidelines, the number of people at celebrations is limited, and access to some towns has been closed. Though I hear that the streets in Barcelona are full of lights and one can feel the Christmas festive spirit.”
The January 2 born tall, lanky, dark-haired, brooding yet excitable man will turn 40 in 2021, a landmark birthday which will be spent doing what he loves. Not a bad way to start a year, probably with his brow furrowed like in the game of Goa FC versus Jamshedpur FC. A first half dominated by the other team, whatever Ferrando told his boys as they came on for the second half saw the team working together, passing with accuracy, getting into the box with a sense of urgency that bodes well for the season.
Ferrando cherishes participating in international competitions like the Champions League and Europa League while he was coaching FC Sheriff. “It was one of the most memorable moments. I enjoy chatting with coaches and players as I think everyone has something interesting worth mulling over,” he says.
His attention is now on Goa’s attacking formations that do leave them vulnerable to breaks. “Each game is different and that is why we prepare for every match differently. Looking for 3 points, we aim to be as offensive as possible. The ISL started a few weeks ago so it’s difficult to talk about the title. We will define our goals game by game. On the AFC (front), we hope to enjoy the competition to the fullest and take this experience to help in the growth of the club and the team,” says the gaffer.
Being able to watch and learn from the greats is one of the most fortuitous parts of the beautiful game, and Juan has his own favourites. “Over that time, I had the chance to team up with or meet some great players — Laudrup, Romario, Ronaldo, Xavi and Ronaldinho, etc. Outside FC Barcelona, I also liked Roberto Baggio, Papin, George Weah (Milan and PSG) and Fowler, current coach for East Bengal,” says a man always looking to learn.
As the season gets heated, he is invigorated even though it is challenging playing footie in India owing to the young footballing nation it is, the different mentality, weather conditions and humidity (in Goa). “Ravi, Clifford, Javi, Venky, Russell, Nelson, Viru, Lokesh, Pankaj, Kartik, Ankit and all my technical staff have been of great help. I am thankful for their effort and commitment,” adds the voracious reader who enjoys a good game of football on TV and reads “almost anything.”