For years down the line, Goa has played a major role in giving birth to footballers of international standards. The trend started when players like Bruno Coutinho, Mauricio Afonso, and Roberto Fernandes stepped out to be a part of the national team during its glorious days. This was later taken to a new level when the likes of Climax Lawrence and Clifford Miranda donned the Indian jersey, and now as the new-kid-on-the-block, Dawson Fernandes looks forward to establish his name on the international stage, Sportskeeda talks to the 23-year-old sensation, who lays his heart bare about his love affair with the game and takes us back to the days when it all began.
Q. Congratulations Dawson on your India debut. We would like to know how as your footballing journey been till now? If you could tell us something more about your childhood, and what led to the beginning of your relationship with football.
Dawson: During the initial days, it was all about having fun. I never thought that I will take football at a professional level. I would play for my school team and gradually went on to play for Goa U-16 in the Subroto Cup. It was then that I realised that I could continue playing football at the highest level. During my schooling days, my parents had no clue about me playing football, as I knew that they would never encourage me to continue. It was only when I wanted to play for the state team and next for Fransa-Pax FC that my parents came to know about it. To my fortune, they let me play for the state team, and since then there has been no looking back.
Q. You started with Salgacor FC in Vasco initially and three seasons later moved to Sporting Club de Goa? How has your experience been, playing for two of the most well-known Goan clubs?
Dawson: When I initially started playing football, I had never imagined that I would one day end up playing for clubs like Salgaocar FC and Sporting Club De Goa. On the other hand, it is also fact that it was around the age of 17 that I was offered my first senior contract. Prior to that, I used to play for Salgaocar at the junior levels too, and so the graduation into the senior team was not a hard task. It was more like a dream come true for me — a footballer to play for the national league! But with every passing season, I realised that with Salgaocar I would hardly get any playing time as the club preferred the foreign recruit over me in the forward position. That was one of the reason I moved to Sporting after spending almost three years with my parent club.
Talking about Sporting Club De Goa, in my opinion it’s one of the best decisions that I have taken in my career so far. I knew that in Goa Sporting was known as a club that relied on local players to a great extent, and I have not been disappointed till now. I’m into my third season with the club and I’m very happy that I play for the Flaming Oranje.
Q. Would you like to share any particular moment in you footballing career, which you consider as the turning point for you?
Dawson: As I said earlier, my decision to move to Sporting from Salgaocar is what I consider to the turning point of my career. The Sporting move assured me that I was not restricted to the bench. I believe that I took the right decision at the right time. I have learned a lot from my team. Be it on the field or off it, the team has always been with me and it’s been a learning process from the very beginning.
Q. It has almost been six years that you have been into professional football. How did your family react initially to your decision of taking football on professional level in a country like India where footballers often have a hard time?
Dawson: That’s a very interesting story. As I already said, my parents were not aware of the fact that I used to play football. Everything happened during my schooling hours with me bunking classes only so that I could wear my jersey and step on to the field and score goals. Like most Indian families, even my parents wanted me to have an academic career. I hadn’t even informed them when I signed my first senior contract with Salgaocar. Soon after, things fell in place block by block.
Q. It’s always a footballer’s dream to play for the national team. What were your initial reactions when the news of you being selected for the International friendly match broke out?
Dawson: I cannot explain that feeling in words. Every footballer, when he starts his career, dreams of playing for his country and I was about to realize that dream of mine. I was all of 23, when I donned the Indian jersey. I guess my hard work bore its fruits!
Q. This season the I-League matches across every stadium has seen a good spectator turnout. How do you see this changing face of Indian football? Could you tell us how different it is to play in front of a full house stadium, than in front of empty stands?
Dawson: I think the game of football has been a late bloomer in our country. We all know that people here love football and that is reflected through their support for their favourite European Clubs. But off late, this crowd has started paying attention towards Indian football as well. It is indeed a welcome change. Now when we play, a good crowd is more or less guaranteed. It is good to know that this trend exists not only in places like Goa and Bengal, but also in cities like Bengaluru and Pune, which is indeed appreciating.
Q. Though the I-League has seen some amount of improvement this season, the national team still lacks the ability to push itself into reckoning at the international stage. What do you think can be done, so that India qualifies for something like the AFC Cup or the Olympics, if not the FIFA World Cup in the near future?
Dawson: You cannot blame the team management for the poor show by the team. I believe that the team requires more time together. A national camp which could go beyond the usual 1-2 weeks could come as welcome relief. The players need to gel well and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to give them time. If that is taken care of, I believe the national team could also put up a good show.
Q. You have worked under various coaches starting from your time at Fransa-Pax FC, where you began your youth career, till the national team coached by Wim. Could you tell us, which coach has been the best in understanding your game and has helped you develop it?
Dawson: Every coach under whom I have played has helped me develop my game is some way or the other. But I somehow believe that Oscar Bruzon of Sporting Club De Goa has helped me being the player that I’m today. He understands my playing style and has used my talents at the right time and in the right place.
Q. If you were asked to pick one footballer from both Indian and International football each, whom you admire and look up to, who would they be and why?
Dawson: In the Indian circuit, it would be Climax Lawrence for me. He is from my town in Goa and I have seen him play throughout my life. In fact, he is one of the reasons why I’m a footballer today. It is not only his on field presence, but also his off-the-field behavior that I admire. And from the international arena, it will always be the Brazilian legend Luis Ronaldo.
Q. Finally, what is your message to the Sporting fans as well as the Indian national team followers who will see you in action in the coming days?
Dawson: Do turn out in numbers in your support for Flaming Oranje, and I assure you that this season we will be a surprise package. We do have a good squad and the players will be giving their best in every game. Please keep praying and cheering for us!