When Phil Brown had said that Indian Football is just like the country—rich people at the top and then direct poverty, there was not a single doubt about which strata Brandon Fernandes belonged to. It’s there at the top, along with the uber rich pupils of Indian Football.
Let me take you through a hypothetical situation. It is the 90th minute of a match, and your favourite club is desperate for a goal. You’re tensed, but then one particular player gets the ball and you suddenly feel optimistic. The sight of that player gives you the belief that he can churn out something magical and take the team home. That player is the reason behind a sense of belief, that a miracle might be on the cards. That player is the life of the club. That player is Brandon.
When our panel sat down to discuss about FC Goa’s Indian Player of the Season, it was really hard for us to discuss about anyone else other than Brandon. Just the charisma and talent the lad possesses is enough to make fans swoon.
No disrespect to the other players though, of course.
The contribution of Lenny Rodrigues, Seriton Fernandes and Jackichand Singh to name a few cannot be overshadowed, but a problem of plenty isn’t quite bad for any club. If FC Goa play a certain brand of football, Brandon might as well be its ambassador.
I can’t help but quote a line I read few days back.
“It may have taken the sun a while to emerge from the clouds, but when it did it was glorious.”
Brandon’s rise to fame is based on similar lines.
A prodigy who was destined for great things, greater than anything ever seen in the country. That was the general opinion when young Brandon burst into the scene early into the decade.
But was there anything wrong in that?
The general public sure does expect ambitious things from a lad who played in U14 teams at the age of 8. And when he attracted offers from clubs like Leicester City, Reading and Sunderland, people started to wonder if Brandon would be the one to carry India’s flag in the mystic land of football that Europe is. But as fate would have it, none of the three clubs materialized their interests.
Cut back to reality, and Brandon is still the same. He still amazes fans with his eloquent technical abilities and gives glimpses of a mouth-watering style of play. In the past couple of seasons Brandon has soared, and currently he is probably at the peak of his career. He motored the caravan of FC Goa throughout the season and ensured that it reaches their destination— the AFC Champions League.
Honestly, what Brandon brings to the table for his team cannot be described in words. You just have to sit back and be a spectator to his magic. The way he weaves the game and goes about it, week in-week out, is majestic.
His importance to FC Goa can be measured by this simple question— If Brandon is plucked out of the team, who would be an ideal replacement for him?
You’ll probably rack up your brain to answer this one. This is what makes Brandon so special.
Throughout this season Brandon has accumulated 2 goals and 7 assists, a marked improvement from previous season’s stats, which weren’t bad either. But one specific aspect about his game which sets him apart from the rest is his ability to convert dead balls into deadly chances. Almost all of his assists are from set pieces, sometimes coming from corners and sometimes from free-kicks.
The exquisite curls of his free-kicks, finding the head or foot of his teammates have made not only Goa fans, but all Indian football fans go gaga over him. And why wouldn’t they be? All the goals scored by India in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers have been assisted by this young man. Chhetri, Adil and Doungel owe their goals to this fine midfielder who never misses a chance to rise to the occasion.
Apart from creating positive furore in the country, Brandon has been instrumental in creating chances for his team too. Brandon created 41 chances this season, and had 2.3 key passes per game. He primarily plied his trade on the left side of his opposite half, but he often drifted into the centre and fell back to the midfield while wrecking havoc. His consistency in this aspect has resulted in him leading the chart of Indian assist providers, with 15 assists from 52 games.
Have a look at this graph. Brandon Fernandes has an xA/90 (expected assists) close to 0.30 which signifies that the assists provided by Brandon are not mere close-ranged assists. This number shows how magnificent his assists are, and there’s no shortage of anecdotes proving the same.
What the eye of the wooden bird was to Arjuna in Mahabharata, the men in orange jerseys are to Brandon when he looks out for them before kicking the ball. His immaculate crossing and passing had propelled his team to a scintillating run of victories which ensured that they compete against Asia’s best clubs in the AFC Champions League.
How crucial is Brandon to his team? The scoreline of the first leg of semifinal played between Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa is enough to answer it. Brandon and Boumous’s absence meant Goa missed out on the trophy yet again, and their presence in the second leg wasn’t enough to paper over the cracks that surfaced a week before.
It’s safe to say that while the lad from Margao continues to don the Gaur’s jersey, Fatorda will have less heartbreaks and more of cheers resonating inside the fortress it has become in recent times.