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Discard to assist King’s Cup squad, Goa midfielder Brandon Fernandes makes heads turn

BENGALURU:  When former India coach Stephen Constantine announced his AFC Asian Cup probables back in December 2018, Brandon Fernandes, despite a fruitful season with FC Goa, didn’t find a place. It was something that the Goan midfielder failed to foresee.

Fast forward a year and Fernandes has become one of the best midfielders in the country, if not the best. His defence-splitting passes and attacking prowess have even made India’s new coach Igor Stimac take notice and award him a place in the King’s Cup squad. Since then, Fernandes has donned the national colours six times including all the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“It’s not good to speak about that (Asian Cup omission). I expected a call-up and it didn’t happen. But I don’t want to say anything about that. This is a new year and I’m looking to better my records,” the 25-year-old said. “Stimac told me that he saw my ISL matches and he said I was a very important player for him. He told me if I worked hard I would get a place in the team.”

For his club side, Fernandes has seen a rapid rise in his stocks. Under Sergio Lobera, he not only improved his ball control but also became a constant provider. In the ongoing ISL, Fernandes has six assists and two goals in 15 matches. He is currently the joint-leader for assists alongside teammate Hugo Boumous and Rafael Crivellaro of Chennaiyin.

“It has been a very good season for me. There were a lot of ups and downs but I kept going and got a good outcome. I’m happy with whatever I’ve achieved this last year,” he said. “I’ve got better and better season by season. It’s something I love to do. I want to assist. I also want to score goals but we have goal-scorers so I have to provide passes for them. That’s what I try to do. There are players who can finish well. I focus on putting the ball in the right places.”

Fernandes has made the left-midfield position for FC Goa his own, starting in all but one match this season and averaging almost 90 minutes every game. For India, he either plays as a deep-lying midfielder or attacking midfielder. However, Fernandes is happy to play in any position and be effective.

With FC Goa becoming the first team this season to book a semifinal berth, Fernandes will be crucial in the advanced position to continue their search for a first ISL title. “As long as I am playing, I’m happy. Whichever role it is, I try to adapt and give my best. I’ve been playing as a left-winger and an attacking player for Goa and in a deep role for the national team. Different coaches see me in different ways. I try to give them whatever they ask for,” he said. Thursday’s result: Mumbai City 2-1 Jamshedpur FC.