A few days ago, at the Mumbai Football Arena, the visiting Odisha side swarmed all over the pitch and outplayed Mumbai City FC in every third, meaning that the hosts were left chasing shadows for the majority of the encounter. Thus, at that juncture, with an impending defeat on the horizon, one would’ve forgiven the hosts’ players to drop their shoulders just a tad and wait for the final whistle.
Yet, even when Mumbai were reeling, a young, bustling midfielder kept putting himself about, trying to propel an improbable comeback. And, though nothing of that sort transpired, Raynier Fernandes had certainly strengthened an already burgeoning reputation, courtesy a combination of craft and graft.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, the midfielder has the city’s blood running through his veins, a fact highlighted by his courageous and determined displays for side. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Raynier opened up on how he felt representing his home franchise and spoke about the honour of representing his home city.
Obviously it is very special to play in a league like the ISL and representing my home city makes it even better. I feel honoured to be donning the club’s shirt every time I enter the pitch.
Additionally, he also spoke positively about his teammates, particularly Paulo Machado and Rowllin Borges.
I really enjoy playing with Rowllin. I feel his game complements mine very well as he is good with interceptions and ball recoveries. In fact, I have a good relationship with all the midfielders at the club, which makes it easier for us to gel on the pitch. As for Paulo, he is really an inspiration in every aspect, be it the diet he follows, his dedication to training hard or the way he prepares for games. I am fortunate to share a dressing room with him.
Till a few years ago though, Fernandes was plying his trade in the I-League, where he represented Mohun Bagan for a couple of seasons. However, he was quick to reminisce his time at the Kolkata-based club and accorded credit to that stint for helping him evolve into a better player. On being asked about the fabled rivalry Mohun Bagan and East Bengal enjoy, he said -
The game between those two sides was something incredible. I played them thrice and I got an assist off a corner in one game. The noise 65,000 fans made was astonishing and it was a surreal experience.
Subsequently, one could resist the temptation of asking which current feud in the ISL came closest to the friction between the aforementioned sides. Raynier though, answered that the ISL was still in a relatively formative stage, meaning that such enmity hadn’t yet cropped up.
When questioned about which team he relished playing against most in the ISL, the midfielder confidently remarked that each side had its strength, considering the quality of coaches and players at their disposal, thus, making every game a challenge.
Moreover, he provided a slight insight into his modus operandi before an encounter. He talked about how he liked to take one game at a time, rather than thinking too far ahead. In the process, he also highlighted how crucial it was to perform one’s responsibility to perfection and not think too much about the ancillary aspects.
Delving a little deeper into the myriad roles he has been playing for the national side and for Mumbai, he spoke about the slight difference in the ideas.
There is only a slight difference in both philosophies. Both coaches like to keep the ball on the ground and play good football. But, the key for any player is to adapt to what the requirements are.
Primarily, Raynier has been asked to function as a deep-lying play-maker and one capable of keeping things ticking before unfurling the decisive defence-splitting pass. And, so far, he has taken to that role like a duck to water, something he credits to his love for FC Barcelona.
As a young kid, I loved watching Ronaldinho in action. He was my idol growing up. I also absolutely love Barcelona and liked the way Andres Iniesta and Xavi controlled the game with their passing ability and vision. Similarly, I try to implement that style of play whenever I take the field.
When quizzed about which international active footballer he admired most, he swiftly came up with Frenkie de Jong’s name; an answer that wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, especially considering his adulation for Barcelona and midfielders carving a niche for themselves playing one-touch football.
And, while Raynier aspires to scale seemingly insurmountable peaks in the future, he guarded against being complacent, hinting that he would rather climb one rung at a time rather than envisioning himself atop the ladder too soon.
On similar lines, he spoke about his goals for the season where he stated that he wanted to give his 100% in each fixture, hoping that it would catapult his club to the perch of the ISL summit.
Winning the ISL is a dream and I would do everything possible to help Mumbai win the title this time round. Last year, we reached the semi-finals and we want to do even better this term, which hopefully culminates with a maiden ISL crown.
Thus, through the enlightening conversation, one had come to grips with how Raynier embodied the newer generation of Indian footballers; a set of players who weren’t afraid to set the bar high and showcased immense bravery on and off the pitch.
Additionally, at a time when the nation is crying out for future leaders, Fernandes seems to fit the bill completely, courtesy his exceptional understanding of the game and propensity to put his team ahead of everything else, a quality that isn’t quite appreciated nowadays.
After all, even when his side were staring down the barrel against Odisha, he mustered the requisite valour to stand strong in the face of adversity, without worrying about what might happen.
And, that, rather than the irresistible ball-playing ability he boasts, would end up defining the special talent Raynier Fernandes is.
Published 05 Nov 2019, 14:44 IST