Working from home, Juan Ferrando gets ready for FC Goa
Even otherwise, Juan Ferrando would possibly have been working from home. That’s how coaches in the Indian Super League (ISL) operate at this time of the year, three months prior to pre-seasons. Ferrando says he is getting ready to be Sergio Lobera’s successor at FC Goa like he would in “normal times”.
Ferrando is linking up with the fitness coach every morning, getting the team doctor on WhatsApp to inquire about previous injuries, watching games to understand the Indian Super League (ISL) and preparing individual programmes for players who can train outside. “This is a moment to learn,” he says.
If that sounds like a lot of work in the time of lockdown, it is. After all, Ferrando is replacing someone who took FC Goa to two ISL semi-finals, one final and a Super Cup title in three seasons. In 2020-21, FC Goa will also be the first team from India in the main round of the Asian Champions League by topping the league phase of ISL 6.
“I go for a run for one or two hours every day to take my mind off football. The rest of the day is about programme, planning and players,” says Ferrando, 39, on a Zoom call, from his home in Barcelona.
Then he lowers his glasses, looks into his screen as if to digitally lock eyes with the questioner, and says: “But this is not really football. One month without it is okay but two months is so hard… and you can’t see Espanyol play at home.”
Uncertainty in the time of Covid-19 also isn’t helping the new coach “close” his squad - especially new foreign players - by August-September for six or eight weeks of pre-seasons assuming ISL 7 would begin in late October. “The pre-seasons prepare muscles and players’ psychology because the next season would be a hard season,” says the man who has a doctorate from the University of Zaragoza’s department of medicine. Ferrando’s thesis was on how body vibration training helps spot jumps of professional footballers. He has also been fitness, tactical and technical coach at Espanyol’s football school.
Ferrando’s interest in sports science - he has degrees and diplomas from University of Barcelona - took him to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and to Brighton when Gus Poyet was manager. It was an opportunity to learn coaching, says Ferrando who was also the personal trainer of Cesc Fabergas and Robin van Persie.
A coach since he was 18, Ferrando has also learnt from Marcelo Bielsa - “crazy coach but an inspiration about lot of things,” he says about the Argentinean - Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel, Manuel Pellegrini and Antonio Conte who “was perfect at Chelsea (in 2016-17).”
Intensity, innovation, verticality, the importance of possession and attacking football unite those famous names. Statements such as “protecting the ball is good,” and “keeping the ball is important” followed from Ferrando.
“If the focus is positive, of course, you can lose but maybe you will have more options to win,” he says. It’s an idea Lobera, who like Ferrando spent time at FC Barcelona, wedged deep in FC Goa; one he fine-tuned with increased defensive discipline in 2019-20 before the sudden departure.
“There are, however, certain tactical details I would want to change but let that stay a secret,” says Ferrando.
Now with Mumbai City FC, Lobera sealed a 2021 Champions League berth for FC Goa. Indians clubs have done poorly in Asia last season and that was in the AFC Cup, the continent’s second-tier competition. “Our mentality will be competitive,” says Ferrando.
Will ISL allowing five imports in the playing 11 and the continent following the 3+1 rule, including one player of Asian origin, add to his squad-building problems? “We will take the best three players who can help the team. In this moment, we are in that position,” says Ferrando the fifth Spanish coach in the 10-team ISL.
As assistant-coach Ferrando was part of Moldova’s FC Sheriff campaign in Europe. His biggest moment as a coach though came in Greece when Ferrando helped Volos NFC win successive promotions and move from third to first division between 2017 and 2019 before leaving because of an eye problem. “We had players hungry about their future and players with experience. There was also a good feeling in the dressing room,” he says.
To create that feeling of team spirit, it is crucial that everybody enjoys what they are doing, he says. “You need to find exercises to enjoy. I am not a military type coach like many Serbians and Russians,” says the polyglot who can speak Spanish, English, Russian, Greek and Catalan.