When Brandon Fernandes first heard the news about Igor Stimac joining the Indian team as the new coach, he had to google his name to find out about his creditionals. Once he found out who Stimac was, Fernandes was more than delighted.
“He was the coach of Croatia and also a player,” Ferenandes says. “So I was thinking like he will be good for Indian football and do some good things.”
While we may have to wait for the results to show as Stimac has only spent a day with the national team, it was a turn in fortunes for Fernandes with the coming of the new coach.
After being on the sidelines for long, Fernandes was called up for the national camp by Stimac. It was a big relief for the him, ending a frustrating wait for the national call-up.
“You get really hurt about when you hear about how you should have been in the team but you are not. These things happen. I kept my calm and avoid negative thoughts,” he says.
Fernandes is not the only one. Like him, Rahul Bheke had to wait for his chance as well. The defender was long touted as one player who should be in the national team. But former coach Stephen Constantine thought otherwise.
So when Bheke heard the news of a new coach, his first thought was that he may see his dream fulfilling after all.
“When the season ended there was news that our coach will be changed. So I was thinking that if there is new coach I may get a chance and I should be ready for it,” he said.
Bheke, who won the Indian Super League title with Bengaluru FC last season, was close to giving up on his dream but it was the desire to to play for India that kept him going.
“That’s part of football. The thing in my hand was to keep working hard and keep playing well for my club, win ISL. My aim was to win it this year and I was focused on that,” he said. “I cannot let non-selection affect me because that will affect my performance and my team’s. So I keep myself motivated and focused on the goal.”
With both players now looking to break into the national team, it will be interesting to see what Stimac has in store for them.
Bheke, however, believes that he only sees Stimac doing good things with Indian football which will benefit him as well.
“He is very much positive about the growth of Indian football and wants to take us further into being one of the best team in Asia. He said stick together as a team.
“My only target is to do well and do what coach’s need are. As a team he wants attacking football and play as a team. He gave Croatia’s team example and said you can be that as well,” Bheke added.
India will begin their first assignment under Stimac at the King’s Cup which begins on June 5.
Fernandes, who plays for FC Goa in the ISL, too thought that making the national team for Kings Cup was his priority.
“I want to give my hundred percent in every session. He is a very experienced coach and his plans and goal is to improve us.
“My first target is to get into the final list for the King’s Cup. So right now I am focussing on that,” he added.