Lusofonia Games 2014: Brandon Fernandes the star attraction of the football tournament
When Goa were awarded the hosting rights of the 2014 Lusofonia Games, one of the biggest attractions was always going to be the football tournament as there was the possibility of seeing the likes of Portugal and perhaps even Brazil.
Although they were supposed to be only under-21 teams, the prospect of watching future Portuguese and Brazilian internationals kept many Indian football fans excited. But eventually that didn’t materlise as neither of those established football nations are going to participate.
Besides hosts India (156), only five other countries will compete in the football tournament. They are Mozambique (120), Sao Tome & Principe (160), Sri Lanka (169) East Timor (190) and Macau (201). The numbers in the parentheses besides every team signifies their current FIFA Ranking so the likes of Mozambique, the great Eusebio’s birthplace, and Sao Tome & Principe should still give India a tough test.
But none of those five teams will have the same impact like a Portugal or Brazil. However the bigger disappointment is the fact that even the India team doesn’t comprise the best under-21 players of the country.
The final 20-member squad comprises a number of talents from all around Goa but barring a few players none of them have even featured in the I-League. The Goa Football Association (GFA) were determined to have some of the best under-21 talents from the four Goan I-League clubs at least but eventually they failed as understandably the clubs didn’t release the players due to the ongoing Federation Cup.
Hence the only players with some top flight experience are Myron Fernandes (Dempo), Mandar Desai (Dempo), Richard Costa (Churchill Brothers) and Brian Mascarenhas (Salgaocar). But the standout name in the India squad is undoubtedly Indian football’s teen sensation Brandon Fernandes.
The midfielder, who is still on scholarship with South Africa’s ASD Cape Town, became an overnight star following his publicised trials at Reading and Leicester City in 2012 and last year he also had a similar two-week training-cum-trial stint at EPL outfit Sunderland.
Brandon has represented India previously at youth level but this will be the first time that he will be in action on home soil after getting all that limelight for his English ventures. The former Salgaocar youth player won’t exactly have the hopes of entire nation on his shoulders but he will be under pressure to live up to the hype surrounding him.
With matches also televised, the 19-year-old has the opportunity to enhance his reputation in the country. It’s fair to say that Brandon will be the star attraction of the six-team football event that otherwise isn’t really getting the Indian football fraternity excited.
The draw will be done on Saturday and India will be hoping to improve their poor record in the tournament of just one win and five defeats in six matches over the previous two editions. All the spotlight though will be on Brandon’s performances.