FC Goa’s latest signing Raynier Fernandes is a person whose roots have played a special role in shaping his football career. A true Mumbaikar at heart, Fernandes has grown up loving, cherishing, and enjoying the beautiful game in the alleys of a bustling and crowded Dadar.

A midfielder on the field, his diverse range of skills is all because of his football outings at the nearby Parish church where Raynier played with his childhood friends.

“When we were kids we just wanted to go out there and play (football) but there’s no proper ground. The only thing we had this was (points to it) Parish, have a good time to play whatever you want, and we used to make use of it,” he revealed during an interview as part of the In The Stands show hosted by Suyash Upadhyaya where he tries to explore about the life of footballers beyond the footballing pitch.

In his childhood, Raynier liked tricks and skills so much that he was called the ‘Ronaldinho’ of his community. Raynier made a name for himself as a charismatic figure spewing magic with a ball at his feet.

“There was an article in my school. So, I did a skill which I normally don’t do in a match, and after the skill, I gave an assist. It was such a good skill that the next day it came in the newspaper with a headline involving Ronaldinho’s name, more like a funny gag rather than an insult," he said.

The 27-year-old player has been playing professionally for a long time. Beginning his professional career with then club Air India, the midfielder also represented Maharashtra in the Santosh Trophy before making a big move to Mohun Bagan. 

Playing in Kolkata, however, is daunting, intimidating, and is one of the most difficult tasks as a player especially in the Kolkata derby against East Bengal FC. There’s heightened tension when you are donning the legacy-driven jersey of Mohun Bagan which spans over 130 years. 

While many players have played in front of a jam-packed Salt Lake Stadium, not everyone has been able to perform fully at their best. Raynier, meanwhile, had an unprecedented experience that further shaped his footballing life. 

“It was something that I’d never imagined. The experience I had back then, the things that I saw, the fans that I met, it was something that I had never imagined in my life back then. You know how they say if you can play there, you can play anywhere in India because the fan craze, the level of football, everything is so high over there, it gets very difficult. Somehow for me, it went so well,” he expressed.

“First year, I didn’t have the best year because I didn’t get many chances but in the second year, I played 85-90% of the game, I gave an assist in the Derby. It was the first time I played in front of a 60,000-70,000 crowd, it was so good and we won the game. And when you win a derby, it feels like you’re on top of the world. It was an experience I’ll never ever forget,” he added.  

Having won the iconic ISL double (ISL title and the League Winners’ Shield) with Mumbai City FC, the midfielder reminisces about his time with the Islanders after recently turning up for Odisha FC in the 2022-23 season on loan. 

“They love you as a person and everything, and when they were there, I went to see the semi-final game of Mumbai City FC vs Bengaluru FC. After that, when I was walking back, the way they were taking pictures, the way they were talking to me, it felt like home because you know Mumbai is my home,” he concluded.