Led by President Akshay Tandon, FC Goa has not only managed to establish strong grassroots level programmes but has also spread out their network in an attempt to identify and develop proper football grounds across the state.
In an exclusive interview to Goal, Tandon elaborated on his projects for FC Goa.
"We had finished mapping all the fields in Goa in April itself and this information is already published on our website under the grassroots section. This has allowed us to identify which of these grounds has the potential to be developed without much investment. Accordingly, we will be taking up the first few grounds under our 'Green Project'. So the goals for this year is that we would take about two or three grounds under us, bring in a few brand partners and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) partners who will be willing to partially fund the development and maintenance of these grounds," began Tandon.
He mentioned that by the start of next year, the club will have at least two-to-three grounds under their wings where regular football development activities would take place.
"The progress on that so far is that we are speaking to several Panchayats (local organising bodies at village level) and several schools about taking their grounds. We have also exchanged MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with some of them. Simultaneously, we are also speaking to a lot of brands about coming on board as sponsors. What we are seeing is that a lot of the international and even local brands are keen on the CSR piece as our projects are a good opportunity for them to do something in sports development, particularly football development, which a lot of them have as their mandate anyway. I would think that by January (2018) we should have at least two or three of these grounds up and running as part of our grassroots development programmes very soon."
It isn't just about grounds. With the ISL transitioning to a longer league this time around, FC Goa, unlike most clubs, have opted to book apartments for their players rather than going for swanky five-star hotels. The club promises to not just take care of the football needs of the players but also ensure that their families can settle in Goa without any hassles.
"Our plan is to make central Goa, which is the Bambolim-Panjim-Porvorim area, as the hub of all our activity. So we have begun conversations with the local government with regard to taking up some grounds in that area on long term leases. We are no longer going to be staying in hotels as we are taking up apartments in Aldeia de Goa for the foreign signings while creating a bit of a hybrid situation for the local signings - whether they want to stay at home or to have a sort of a makeshift residence for them in these areas," revealed Tandon.
"We are also helping them (players) integrate with the local environment as a lot of them are coming with their families. They would require their kids to get schools, so we will be helping them with admissions and things like that as well. Of course, the ISL mandate requires everyone to move into a hotel on matchday minus one. We will be doing that."
Tandon and his dedicated team are solemnly trying their best to make the state of Goa an attractive proposition for football players.
"Almost everyone whom we have signed, whether in the developmental squad or the first team, the majority of the contracts are long term. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to make Goa their home and spend at least 10-to-11 months in Goa. So we are focused on building the infrastructure around that.
"In Goa, unlike the metros, we have the advantage of having reasonable lease and rental prices. So the economics in that sense works in our favour. It's not going to any more expensive than it has been in the past. So that (accommodation over an extended league) is actually not a cost increase for us," remarked Tandon.
"The first thing is, players will still look for the flexibility to choose where they want to live. We are going to be open to that as long as a basic discipline is maintained. We are already building a team in Goa which is going to be like a concierge service for the players - for all their requirements such as laundry, help at home, groceries and so on," Tandon concluded.
With the off field headaches being taken care of by the club, the players can now solely focus on ensuring that the franchise has a better performance in ISL season four after the disastrous finish last year.