I have got talent, I needed time to show it, says Hyderabad FC’s Liston Colaco

Updated on Feb 28, 2021 08:15 AM IST

Young Goan talks about why he moved and how his first proper season in Indian Super League has gone.

Liston Colaco.(ISL)
Liston Colaco.(ISL)
By, Kolkata

For someone who smiled shyly, spoke softly and was shorn of braggadocio, Liston Colaco surprised when he looked straight and said, “I have got talent. I needed time to show it.” If it didn’t sound like verbal showboating it is because in 924 minutes, spread over 18 games of this Indian Super League (ISL) season, Colaco, 22, has shown glimpses of what he’s got.

On December 15 at Goa’s Tilak Maidan, Colaco had SC East Bengal full back Scott Neville running down the wrong alley. Free on the left, Colaco slid right as Neville tried closing him down leaving the defender with over 275 games in the A-League looking over his shoulder. Neville turned around and found Colaco swerving left. It was followed by a slight swivel to the right before Colaco swayed left again and arrowed into the penalty area leaving Neville trailing. Colaco then played a diagonal ball for Halicharan Narzary to score.

It was Colaco’s second assist of the night; the first being a pass from the right that found its way through the defence to Aridane Santana. In the 2-2 draw against ATK Mohun Bagan, Colaco forced central defender Sandesh Jhingan and left back Subhasish Bose into fouls that fetched yellow cards.

This season, he has three assists. “I need to improve on that number,” said Colaco. “He is a great guy. He can play right winger, attacking midfielder, centre-forward, left winger,” said Hyderabad FC coach Manuel Marquez in a Zoom call. Some of his actions are spectacular, said Marquez.

Colaco’s preferred position is left wing from where he loves cutting in. “It is where I have played from a young age,” he said, in a separate Zoom call. He is comfortable shooting with both feet; the goal he scored against NorthEast United came off his left after running down the right channel, staving off a challenge, swerving inside the penalty box and blasting into the far corner. “Colaco, golazo,” said the commentator.

“From a young age, I was told, “you are a good player” but I would use only my right foot. So, my coaches would ask, “is your left foot only to help you to walk?” At home, I would get a ball and train only with my left foot. For games at the ground near home, I would try and play more with my left foot,” said Colaco.

Against NorthEast that night, Colaco scored another one, with his right foot. His four ISL goals, spread over two seasons, have come against the same team.

That Goans aren’t good travellers is Indian club football’s worst kept secret. From Francis D’Souza through Franky Barreto, they didn’t stay long in Kolkata, till recently the hub of Indian club football, making Alvito d’Cunha’s long and glorious career at East Bengal an exception. But Gen Z is different. Colaco said he misses home in Darvolim, South Goa, terribly—staying in a bio-secure bubble means he is still away—“but the most important thing is your career.”

That wasn’t going anywhere at FC Goa where he joined in 2017, being the first player the ISL club paid a transfer fee for. Top scorer in the 2016-17 Goa Professional League for Salgaocar FC, Colaco was also good in the 2019 Durand Cup. Joining FC Goa felt like a dream, he said, because he would watch their games as a fan, “sometimes without tickets.” The dream soured over two seasons and five appearances, four of them in 2017-18.

“The team was set, even the substitutes who would come on were similar players. It was difficult for young players,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to perform at the highest level in India, the ISL.”

Moving to Hyderabad

Hyderabad FC provided that. Last season after moving in January 2020 on a long-term deal, Colaco played seven games and scored twice. “Luckily I got some playing time and showed what I can do,” he said, laughing softly. “This is the first season I am playing properly and that has given me the confidence. This is what I wanted at FC Goa too.”

Familiar faces smoothened settling-down pangs. Mohammed Yasir and Chinglensana Singh were at FC Goa too and Colaco had played against many of Hyderabad FC’s band of promising youngsters. The arrival of coach Manuel Marquez and his stated preference of working with young players too has helped.

“Maybe (Sergio) Lobera preferred top players, those who had experience. This coach likes young players, and in training he saw how badly I wanted to be involved,” said Colaco. Lobera moved to Mumbai City FC this term after almost three seasons with FC Goa.

“He (Marquez) will tell you what you need to improve on. He will say, “you have this quality, now you need to use them” and then he will explain how and when. After matches, there are video sessions for each player. Sometimes it would be a compilation after two-three games and he will show the player what he can do better. No other coach has done this for me,” said Colaco.

Marquez has signed a new two-year deal with Hyderabad FC who will end the league phase against FC Goa on Sunday. For Hyderabad FC to keep play-off hopes alive, they must win against a team they have never beaten. And they will have to do that without skipper Santana and Singh who are suspended.

After saying that he does not approve of the hype around Colaco, Marquez said: “I am totally sure he will play for the national team. If he can improve on decisions: when to pass, when to dribble, where to position, I think he will be a very good player. But, for sure, he is very important in our team.”

Complementing Marquez is the help Colaco said he and the other young players get from the foreign players. “We are in a bubble for six months meaning we are meeting each other all the time. They are very good guys. Simple, humble. They are easy with us and this has helped us build a connection. All of them speak English,” said Colaco.

For this Cristiano Ronaldo fan, football’s been a way of life. “Where I grew up, they played a lot of football. We would play before school, during the recess and after school even after dark.” Colaco, who joined Salgaocar youth in 2014, said his father and brother are former players and mother played kabaddi in college.

Going into the season, Colaco said he had set two targets and only one—of being a regular in the team—has been met. He has missed one match, against FC Goa, because a left ankle injury flared up. The ankle is not 100% and it won’t be till he follows the physio’s advice and rests it for three weeks. That couldn’t happen because he has also set himself a goal of scoring five times this term. Colaco is three shy and if he gets there on Sunday, Hyderabad FC’s season’s unlikely to end.


    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata with over two decades as a sports journalist. He writes mainly on football.

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