The veteran defender looks ahead to the big game against Real Kashmir FC and is confident that the young squad is up for the challenge against an experienced, well-drilled side.

Sudeva Delhi FC Media

The signing of experienced central defender Augustin Fernandes was a coup of sorts for Sudeva Delhi FC. Ahead of the clubs debut season in the Hero I-League, the management made the bold decision to play an all-Indian squad. The goals were clear: giving Sudeva academy boys a chance to go up against the best in Indian football while also building a competitive squad that would give more experienced clubs sides a run for their money. 

With seven India caps, the 32-year-old Fernandes is among Sudeva’s most experienced players and has assumed a leadership role both on and off the field. “I was very clear about the sort of club I wanted to sign for this season,” says Fernandes. “The first, and most important aspect, was whether the coach wanted to play a style of football where my abilities and style would be a fit. Everything else followed from there. I then managed to speak to a couple of players who had already signed up with Sudeva. Finally, I had a good, honest conversation with the club president (Anuj Gupta) and was convinced this would be the right decision.” 

The vast majority of players representing Delhi’s only I-League club this season are very young. Eight of these players are graduates of the Sudeva academy. Others like Mahesh Naorem, Shaiborlang Kharpan, Tondonba Singh, Gursimrat Gill and Sairuat Kima have some experience at this level but are all in their early 20s. Fernandes has accepted both the positives and the challenges associated with fitting into such a young team and feels the former outweigh the latter. He is also of the opinion that head coach Chencho Dorji’s approach to the game has created positive energy in the team camp despite the restrictions of living and playing in a bio-bubble. “It’s great to have a head coach who has such an open way of functioning,” Fernades says. “His door is always open and any of us can approach him for a frank chat at any time. It’s played a big part in the building up some positive energy.” 

With three points from the first two games, Sudeva is currently sixth on the league table. The convincing 3-0 win over the Indian Arrows has given the squad momentum that the coaching staff hope to build on. Real Kashmir FC, on the other hand, has put together a very experienced side and are among the leading contenders for the league title. The likes of Mason Robertson, Lalrindika Ralte, Haroon Amiri and lethal striker Dipanda Dicka will definitely put Sudeva to the test. So how will Sudeva approach the game? “The plan is simple,” says Fernandes. “We go into the game prepared not to concede a goal. If we do this, there is every chance we will grow in confidence as the game goes along.” And then, as we know in football, anything is possible. 

Sudeva Delhi FC takes on Real Kashmir FC at 7 pm on January 19, 2021 at the Kalyani Stadium. Tune in to the 1sports network to support your club.

Picture: Vaibhav Raghunandan