Once deemed potential star in the making, Lester Fernandez saw his stock go down drastically after 2014 partly due to injuries. The former Pune FC star has admitted that he is not "completely satisfied" with the way his playing career has paved out.
"I'm not completely satisfied. Maybe I have played only 60-70 per cent of my football," he had told Goal as the 33-year-old narrated his story.
Almost eight years back, United Sports Club paid a transfer fee of INR 20 lakhs for Lester, which shows how highly rated he was. But an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in 2015 all but crippled his career. Fellow Goan Adil Khan was another player who suffered such an injury along with Lester. But the current India international rebuilt his career from scratch, dropping down to the I-League Second Division in order to get more playing time.
Lester feels that he erred by not following Adil's approach which has now seen him establish himself as a starter in the national team and at Indian Super League (ISL) outfir Hyderabad FC.
"To give you an example, Adil and I had the same surgery together. He thought to start from scratch and look at him now. I'm so happy for him and that's one thing that I probably should have done. I didn't want to go and play in the second division back then," he admitted.
Khan represented I-League second division side Lonestar Kashmir for a period of three months before joining Dempo SC and returned to the national stage with a good season at Churchill Brothers that opened the doors for his re-entry into the Indian Super League (ISL) with FC Pune City and later Hyderabad FC.
And while Fernandez failed in his attempts to relaunch himself on the national stage, he eventually took to playing for Mumbai-based club Kenkre FC last season besides taking up a coaching job at SP Academy and St. Xaviers' school at Nerul, Navi Mumbai.
"Having played for 10 years, I thought that I don't want to go out of Mumbai and that's when I started to play for Kenkre and completed my (AFC) D-License in coaching," he reasoned.
Having spent his time with clubs in Goa, Pune and Kolkata, Fernandez has pointed out the contrast in the football culture. "In Kolkata there is a lot of crowd pressure. They want you to play well in every match. If you play well in one match, you're the hero but it continues for every match. In Goa also, there is pressure from the supporters but not as much as Kolkata."
The 33-year-old is now planning to get his coaching badges and shares his experience of guiding youngsters.
"What I have learned so far about coaching is, you have to be a little bit patient especially with younger kids. If you get pros (professional players), it's different to coach them because they understand [the game] much better. But when you coach the younger age groups, you have to be patient.
"The careers that we have had in football, you cannot expect the same thing from everyone. Sometimes you tend to think that they play the same football but then it takes time and you have to start from scratch."
The Coronavirus pandemic situation has put normal life out of gear for many as Fernandez is undecided about his future. "It won't be the same again for sure. People will be extra cautious. Football is a contact sport and so parents will be thinking twice before sending their kids. We have to wait for the situation to go back to normal.
"Kenkre has also offered me to coach them as a player-manager but let's see."