We played our hearts out: Godfrey Pereira

There is something about unbeaten league triumphs and the red & white kit colors. After Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went unbeaten in the English Premier League in 2004, our own city Mumbai saw similar feat being achieved when Air India successfully defended their MDFA Elite Division crown without being toppled in the entire campaign.

Like it was Wenger for the Gunners in 2004, Air India’s unbeaten triumph had the vastly experienced Godfrey Pereira at the heart of it. Godfrey Pereira who also coached the Maharashtra side at the Santosh Trophy has another feather for his cap as his side tamed the ONGC challenge and finishing five points above them in the final tally.

The triumphant coach spoke at length with our reporter after his side netted a late equalizer to finish the season unbeaten. Here is what the Champion Coach had to say.

You are Champions. How does it feel?
GP: It feels great because we managed to remain unbeaten throughout the season. We played our hearts out in all the games and we are delighted and slightly surprised by the overwhelming fashion of victory.

What was the crucial moment in the season that helped tilt the title in your favor?
GP: I remember the game against Western Railways where we were a goal down, but managed to win that game 4-1. That was the turning point according to me. It gave my players great belief and also kept us at a hand’s length from the chasing pack. Had we drawn or lost that game, today’s game against ONGC would have been really tough for us.

Back to back champions and this time unbeaten too. How can you make this side better next season?
GP: The first step in making this team better would be retaining this group of players. We are the lowest paying team and so many of our players leave for greater money and we can’t stop them. So it will be important for us to spend some money and keep these players. If we could do that, we would be even better next season.

Can you name few players from your team that impressed you the most?
GP: Siddharth Nayak was really good for us this season. Unfortunately he had to miss the end of the season due to the leg surgery that he underwent. Raynier has been the most impressive player for us. He was a part of the Air India juniors team and we promoted him this season and keeping all this in mind, he has been our best player. There are many players who have done a great job and that is why we are champions.

So how do you plan to celebrate your success?
GP: We have organized a small get-together for all the players. It’s a combined event for the senior and U-19 teams, both of which finished unbeaten in their campaign. So they deserve every bit of it.