FC Goa, after a disastrous 2016 Indian Super League (ISL) season, began the ongoing season with a clean sheet. They parted ways with star Brazilian manager Zico after a three-year spell and roped in former Barcelona assistant coach Sergio Lobera.
Not only did it signal a shift in the recruitment policy for the Gaurs, it also meant the club's footballing philosophy was set for an overhaul. Lobera brought in six Spanish players in Ferran Corominas, Manuel Lanzarote, Edu Bedia, Sergio Juste, Adrian Colunga and Manuel Arana.
The Spanish influence was markedly pronounced in their game as well. The one-touch passing football, an obsession on playing out from the back and having technically adept players - all these factors stood out as FC Goa made a blazing start to the season. Though Adrian Colunga and Manuel Arana subsequently left the club, the Spanish influence has not waned.
However, amid all the Spanish flair, what has given the Goa-based side some balance has been the Moroccan flavour they have in the team.
In Ahmed Jahouh, their anchorman in midfield, and Hugo Boumous (who came in the winter transfer window), Lobera has two trustworthy lieutenants from the African country on the field who will do the dirty work while Coro and Lanzarote go about their business of scoring goals.
Ahmed Jahouh had the unenviable task of breaking up play in the initial half of the season. His steely presence was often the only insurance the FC Goa backline had as Lobera went about with a cavalier approach which was paying dividends.
The 29-year-old's imposing physicality also helped the midfield find some balance and free up the creative players like Edu Bedia. But once FC Goa fell into a slump midway through the season, Lobera opted to bring in another Moroccan, a 22-year-old Hugo Boumous.
Boumous has been a revelation since signing for the Gaurs. The youngster has speed, physique and can hold on to the ball well, qualities which helped solidify Goa's soft underbelly which was often targetted by teams. Boumous also contributed two goals, including a stellar performance in Goa's 4-0 win over FC Pune City, and has shown his proficiency in attack as well.
The result was that FC Goa romped into the ISL play-offs at the expense of Jamshedpur FC.
The Moroccan flavour did not become a hit with the Goans by chance. Sergio Lobera himself has coached in Morocco, a country which was under Spanish rule till 1956, and he is very familiar with both Jahouh and Boumous.
Lobera was in charge of Moghreb Tétouan and he coached both Jahouh and Boumous there. Bringing in two players whose qualities he was very familiar with should not have been a tough decision for the coach who is now reaping the rewards.
FC Goa will look to their deadly Spanish duo of Coro and Lanzarote to provide the fireworks when Chennaiyin FC come visiting in the ISL play-offs but the spade work behind the scenes would be entrusted with their Moroccan duo of Jahouh and Boumous.