The Goan coach is looking forward for his first season in the GPL… …

The ‘bullet shots’ specialist, Micky Fernandes is trying to follow in the footsteps of the famous football legend Zinedine Zidane who has recently won the Champions League with Real Madrid for the second time in a row, just two years after getting into management .

Fernandes who is an AFC C license holder has the same story as the former India international has helped Penha de Franca to get promotion to the Goa Professional League for the coming season in his second campaign on the touchline.

He was appointed as a head coach last season and in his debut campaign the  team sealed runners-up position in the GFA First Division League 2015-16 and won promotion. But the young coach saw his joy cut short after a points deduction for fielding a non-local U-19 player, which forced them to drop to the third position and also loose the promotion spot to Clube Sao Miguel de Taleigao.

“I was disappointed in last season as after doing so much hard work we were left with nothing. I completely accept my mistake. It was a technical mistake to field a wrong player but I always learn from my mistakes which helps me to grow stronger,” he explained.

Even after heartbreak in the debut season as a coach, Fernandes never gave up and proved his calibre in the following campaign as the Bardez based club finished second and qualified for the GPL after defeating Holy Cross Arambol 4-0 in the last match

“I took last season as a learning experience and gave my best this time, but let me tell you, this season was much more difficult than the last one. There were many times when we were lagging behind other teams, due to injuries and sometimes due to poor form of the players but in the end we conquered what we wanted,”

Though the young coach has performed a miracle of sorts with Penha de Franca to get them promoted with just local talent who were playing in the GFA First Division for the last five years, it will be a difficult task for Fernandes’ men to compete  in Goa’s elite division where heavyweights like Dempo SC, Sporting Clube de Goa, Salgoacar FC and Churchill Brothers ply their trade. 

However, he has something else in mind as the 3-3 year old coach said, “ We are looking forward to the GPL and to playing against some big clubs, I am not afraid of them as I’ll give my best and secondly this will be my first season in the top tier. So, I don’t think I have anything to fear,”he asserted.

While talking about the coming season and his objectives for it he said, “I am a practical person and I look at some factors like financial support as we are promoted from the lower division. We will not be competing for the title. So, my first target will be to avoid relegation, while side by side we will be trying for a top half finish.”

Fernandes was part of Guardian Angel SC in the recently played Goa Sevens Premier League where they finished runners-up

It is hard to get an opportunity to coach a team in Goa where every year hundreds of players easily pass out with an AIFF D licence. But,  in Micky’s case the opportunity came knocking on his door and he is grateful to God for it.

“One of the officials from the management offered me to coach their side and I took the responsibility as they were giving me an opportunity which I was looking for from long back and I didn’t give it  a second thought,” he reflected.

When asked about his new role and the difference he feels compared to his playing days he said, “I don’t feel any difference, at least for now. I just feel that I have added one more role to my life as I will continue playing, at least for few more years. So, in the coming season, I will be playing a dual role, that is a player-coach.”

Micky is a well known player in the state and much loved by young players as he is always seen on the ground guiding the youth and he believes that the love for football and ability to guide youngsters brought him to the coaching side.

“I love to guide youngsters. Even when I was playing with some big clubs, I always use to motivate the young players to give their best and after playing for almost 15 years, at one moment I thought of getting into coaching and now I am happy with my decision,”

Fernandes has played for eight different clubs in the country which include Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and Goa’s five times national league winners Dempo SC, but he believes his days with Salgaocar FC were the best of his playing career.

“I have played for many clubs including Mohun Bagan who have the best fan following in the country but I loved playing for Salgaocar under Savio Madera. The professionalism I experienced there with them was way better than at any other club in the country. It was the best time of my playing career. While days with Dempo SC were also good and I also enjoyed playing there.”

The midfielder won the Federation Cup with Churchill Brothers 

He also represented the country in 2006 against Yemen under head coach Syed Nayeemuddin, which was his only India cap for the defender. However, he believes that playing for the country is a proud moment, no matter how many times you do so.

“It was my childhood dream to play for the country. I started playing football to represent India. So it was a dream come true. For me, if you are a professional footballer then you must play like one that will get opportunity to represent your country at least once in your career.”

He also believes that former India coach Madeira helped him a lot to improve his game at that time, while he is also guiding him in his new role.

“I was always motivated by him. He was the one who always stood behind me and guided me when I was a player and even now when I am getting into a new phase of life,” he explained expressing gratitude for the former tactician.

Goa is famous for two things, beaches and football. Goa is the only place where football is played professionally for all 12 months of the year as many inter-village tournaments start in the off-season, i.e. in June and run through to August. When asked about the secret behind Goan’s love affair with football, theformer Greens star was a bit emotional while answering as he said, “I cannot answer this and I can bet you no Goan can tell you why he loves football? For us, football is everything. Now some people will say that Goa has lost its football culture but let me tell them, come to inter-village football and local leagues in the state and you will find thousands of people supporting their Village teams. I also believe that fans do not turn out to I-League matches but for that, clubs and the organisers are to blame as it’s their responsibility to promote their product, which is not happening. At the same time, the Indian Super League is doing a fantastic job to attract fans as they are investing more to promote their league,”  he pointed out

This is an interesting time in Indian football. The game is growing exponentially and more youngsters are getting quality exposure. But, there has been some upheaval as three Goan clubs have already pulled out of the I-League this season while some of the clubs like Aizawl FC, who won the I-League recently will be forced to play in the tier two league in the revamped structure and Micky thinks that it will affect Indian football.

“It is going to affect Indian football for sure as these three clubs have given a lot to Indian football in the past years. Along with other I-League clubs, these three clubs were the ones who have run the country’s football for years now.  You cannot simply ignore their contribution to  Indian football. The higher authorities of Indian football should consider everything when they revamp the structure.”

He further added, “If these clubs are not incorporated Indian football will miss out on Goan talents. If players don’t get team to play, who do you think will look at football as a career?  Without Goan clubs Indian football will lose its soul,” he predicted

Some are saying the ISL has brought new life to the football in the country, while some are against the cash-rich league but the midfielder has mixed feelings about the three-year old tournament.

Fernandes represented Goa in the Santosh Trophy on several occasions

“I think ISL is doing pretty well in terms of promoting football but do you think they would have sustained it if the I-League was not there? They just borrowed all the domestic players from the I-League. Tell me one player who is a product of  the ISL? You wont find any. I can even say that they have also borrowed fans from the I-league. However, they have also brought some new fans to the stadium.  Now, it is a different matter that few of these fans come to the stadium only to click selfies and to check-in on Facebook,” he opined.

However, Fernandes was also quick to point out that the ISL had done a ggood job of promoting the game and that the influx of money into the sport has been beneficial for the players.

Indian football is in transition and Fernandes believes he can see lot of changes in the game, mainly at the grassroots level.

“Talking about the changes, India is improving its grassroots level. It is necessary to have a proper structure of grassroots to gain benefits in the future. It will take time but it will definitely help Indian football to reach better heights,he professed.

However, he also believes that Indian football need changes and especially at the management level.

“I am strongly against politicians’ involvement in the game and even higher authorities should be politician-free. A sports organisation should be run by former players (eligible) or highly trained sports administrators who can understand the game well and not the ones who are with the organisation only to fill their pockets,” said Fernandes Passionately.”

Finally, when asked  where he sees himself and the club in the next three years he said, “I cannot say that I want to be like this coach or like that coach. I am just new to this and would like to take my career step by step but one thing is for sure that I want to be the most successful coach of Goa. Regarding the club, I will do my best to see the club at the highest level in the coming years. The rest is upto God,”  he said before signing off.