Joaquim Joao Fernandes, popularly known as Jaju Fernandes, was 63 when a major heart attack took his life. His son, Brandon Fernandes, was at the team hotel in Kerala, where his side FC Goa was participating in the Super Cup.

This incident occurred in April 2023, and the news of his father's demise absolutely shattered the FC Goa captain. Since then, he found it extremely difficult to return to his normal life. He took a long break from football, even stepping away from the national team, to spend time with his family and recover from this tragedy.

His father was a role model for him, and Jaju, who had been a long-serving member of the Goa Football Association, played a huge role in shaping his football career.

Brandon took the field for the first time in almost four months and led the newly-revamped FC Goa side against Shillong Lajong FC in their opening fixture of the Durand Cup 2023 on Tuesday.

“My father played different roles in my life; he was a friend to me, my guide, like a good father always available whenever we needed him. His loss is heartbreaking. I know he will watch me from up there,” Brandon said in an interaction with The Times of India.

Besides being a tiatrist by profession, Brandon’s father was a huge admirer of the game of football. Jaju made a lot of sacrifices in his life to fulfill the dream of his son. It was he who noticed the potential of his son and sent him abroad to practice with the ASD Football Academy in South Africa when he was only 16 years old.

Brandon impressed the scouts in Europe, which resulted in trials from three English clubs: Leicester City, Reading, and Sunderland. The 28-year-old fondly reminisces about how his father used to motivate him and encourage him to do well in his footballing career.

“He has played a lovely role in my life. He always told me, no matter what, you have to give your best (on the field). I have to do everything in my power to achieve more things till the end of my career,” he said.

The moment has come for Brandon to reciprocate and fulfill his father’s long-cherished dream. The dream was to see his son become the champion of India. Fulfilling this ambition will require a lot of hard work, as the Indian Super League (ISL) is going to be extremely competitive this season.

However, the attacking midfielder is determined to lift the trophy and dedicate it to his father.

“My father always wanted me to win the ISL trophy. Even individual prizes he appreciated, but most important for him was winning the ISL trophy. Being captain of FC Goa last year, he told me ‘Win the ISL for Goa, Goa has not won the trophy’. I want to do it for my father. This season is dedicated to him. He is the reason I am where I am,” Brandon stated.

FC Goa have endured a couple of challenging seasons, to change their fate they have appointed the experienced Manolo Marquez at the helm. Both Brandon and Marquez share a common aspiration: to rekindle the club's illustrious past and restore its glory days.

The Gaurs' captain shares insights into their experience under the new coach and asserts that their hard work will surely reignite joy among the fans.

“He is a very demanding coach and I think all players have to stay focused under him. There are no easy options and you cannot take anything for granted. Everything has to be achieved with hard work. I am sure, with the team that we have, and the way we are progressing, we will have a good season,” Brandon commented.