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Interview: Brandon Fernandes on experiencing football outside India, a longer ISL, and FC Goa’s upcoming campaign

Outside of the Boot gets the chance to sit down with FC Goa’s talented midfielder, Brandon Fernandes

There’s been a lot of talk about Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s move back to India? Given your experience abroad, what’s your take on the need for Indian players to test themselves outside of India?

I think the best way for any player who wants to play abroad is to visit the country at a young age and develop themselves as a player within the football ecosystem in that particular country. I think many of our young footballing talent are hardworking and would be able to make the cut in the highest level anywhere in Europe. India has a lot of exceptional talent and the football scenario has taken rapid strides to improve the footballing ecosystem in the country. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has moved back to India to play for Bengaluru FC this season in the ISL. That’s a huge boost for Indian players.

You’ve experienced football outside of India – how different are the training methods in Europe and Africa compared to what you’ve seen in the sub-continent thus far?

The coaching methodology has seen a marked change in India over the past years. Possibly some of that credit can be attributed to insights shared by foreign coaches visiting India. This includes the ISL coaches who have been working with Indian players and coaches. The methods are almost the same but the quality and intensity is something that makes the difference.

Based on your experiences abroad, what do you see as the main issue for Indian footballers compared to those abroad, which leaves the talent back home inferior comparatively?

I don’t agree that the talent is inferior. Indian talent is just as robust as that abroad. It’s more about the football set-up, training of players and infrastructure available to young talent. For example, in England they have more than 5 leagues with 20 plus teams in every league. India being such a huge country we don’t t even have 15 teams in a league. The football ecosystem and training methods are areas where investment is required.

In your opinion, how good/bad is the youth football in the country? Having experienced this through your development fairly recently, what are your thoughts on this?

I think football in the country is growing immensely and it’s a good sign. I see kids play and train often at their early age. We have seen the impact ISL has made over the last 3 years and the passion among the fans of FC Goa. Stadiums have been full and there is an excitement in the air during every match played by FC Goa. I’m excited about being part of Goa’s home team this season. I feel football in the country is going in the right direction.

How important was your stint at Churchill Brothers in terms of getting games under your belt?

This was something very important for me. After coming out of surgery it was very important to play matches, to get game time and to get some of my confidence back. I took it as an opportunity to gain back my confidence as well as to improve myself as a player by playing these games. I’m thankful to Churchill Brothers for giving me this opportunity.

Stephen Constantine has given debuts to a number of players in his second stint at the helm. Do you think you are one good ISL season away from featuring in his plans?

I would love to represent my country someday. But right now my focus is on myself and giving my best to FC Goa, the team I play for.

A longer ISL and more focus on Indian players is something that has drawn widespread praise. From a player perspective how do you think it would help?

A longer season will give a lot more time for players to recover after their matches and also give them enough time to prepare for the next match, which is very important. There are also a lot more Indian players on the field this season. The more opportunities available to Indian players to play on the field, the better it is for the country. ISL has certainly put the spotlight on Indian players. This will allow more Indian players to get a chance to showcase their talent on a bigger stage.

Goa’s status as a football powerhouse in India is seemingly on the wane in recent times. Thoughts on that? If true, what needs to be done to rejuvenate the game in the state?

Goa continues to produce exceptional footballing talent. This season there were 26 Goan players in the Hero Indian Super League domestic draft. That’s a significant number in my opinion. Goan clubs have been investing in grassroots development. FC Goa too has a focused youth development programme with Coach Derrick at the helm of it. Like I said earlier Goa has immense footballing talent.

What are you looking forward to with FC Goa in the upcoming season of Indian Super League?

Firstly, as a player I want to give my best to my team FC Goa. I want to play as many matches as possible. We have a mission which is to win the league this season. To reach that objective, we need to succeed one match at a time and give our best every time we step into that field. I’m looking forward to giving my best to FC Goa this season.

What does 2017 and 2018 hold for Brandon Fernandes?

It’s an exciting year ahead. Let’s wait and watch.

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