FC GOA ARE SET TO play 3 matches pre-season friendlies against top division clubs from the Gulf as part of their training camp in Dubai ahead of the 2nd edition of Indian Super League. The news was revealed by a tweet from the official FC Goa handle.
The matches will be played over 8 days in the middle of September, and will see the team travel to different parts of the UAE as well as Oman to take on clubs that have established themselves in the Saudi Professional League and the UAE Pro League.
On 11th September FC Goa will play their first friendly against Al-Khaleej Club, a multi-sport institution from Saihot, Saudi Arabia that was established in 1945. The club has distinguished itself in many sporting disciplines like basketball, tennis, volleyball, athletics and gymnastics. Their football team has had a hard time making themselves at home in the Saudi Professional League, having gone through relegation to the First Division a few times. In the 2014-15 season they finished 8th in the top-tier league in their country. The match will take place in Khor Fakkan City, a town along the Gulf of Oman.
On the 15th the team will play its second friendly against one of the giants of UAE football. Al Shabag Al Arabi Club, commonly called Al Shabab, have not only won the UAE Pro League multiple times but have also made themselves known in international club competitions like GCC Champions League (3 times winners, current title holder) and the AFC Champions League (2 appearances in the last 6 years). Last season they finished 4th in the UAE Pro League. Their home ground, the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, holds 18,000 spectators. That's where the friendly will take place.
The third and final friendly match in the Gulf that FC Goa will play will be a face-off with the club that just came 2nd in the UAE Pro League. Al-Jazira Sports & Culture Club from Abu Dhabi, under the management of ex PSG and Brazil centre-back Abel Braga, are doing well, and make for a fearsome opponent. Established in 1974, Al-Jazira play out of the famed, 42,000 capcacity Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium which should make a great venue for the encounter.
The use of pre-season friendlies to top off a training camp abroad is a well thought-out plan, as it gives them a chance to see their mostly new-look team in action before the ISL kicks off. With the friendlies getting over 2 weeks before ISL begins, it gives them enough time to make any tinkering deemed necessary in light of the matches. The friendlies also serve as a vehicle to popularise the ISL in the Gulf region, which houses a large number of Indians, who are valuable in terms of television viewership.
FC Goa, who recently celebrated their first birthday, have been making steady progress in terms of brand development. They already command one of the most loyal fan bases in the ISL and with the team they have managed to assemble ahead of their second season, the elaborate pre-season efforts have a good chance of paying back in a handsome way.