Feeling At home in kolkata

Carlos Hernandez believes that his success here will inspire a lot of his compatriots to come to India. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

For Carlos Hernandez Kolkata is like home, especially because of its climate. “It is tropical, like what we have in my hometown (San Jose),” says the Costa Rican World Cup player, who will don the Prayag United jersey in the upcoming Indian football season.

A prominent member of the Costa Rican team at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany, Hernandez brings a new foreign flavour to Indian football.

For long Brazil has been the sole supplier of foreign players from South America to the teams in the country’s premier league championship, the I-League. But the entry of the Costa Rican midfielder lends a refreshing change to an otherwise polarised scenario.

The African nations, especially Nigeria, have been primarily supplying footballers to Indian clubs that are dependent on foreign influence for success.

Hernandez’s arrival has aroused a lot of enthusiasm in Prayag United Sports Club. He has been accorded the pride of place in the club’s schemes as it takes on the Kolkata giants such as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. What is really significant about Hernandez’s signing is that he is one of the few World Cup players turning out for an Indian club in the prime of his career.

Hernandez whetted his skills in the highly rated A-League, playing for the Australian club Melbourne Victory for five seasons (2007-2012). A footballer who blends creative and aggressive skills in his role as an attacking midfielder, Hernandez won the Johnny Warren Medal for best player in the A-League for the 2009-2010 season.

“I know the big expectations the team (United SC) has on me for winning matches and titles. I have come to play good football and help the team realise its goals with my performance,” says Hernandez about his objective of coming to India.

Talking of his experience in the A-League, where he enjoyed the best phase of his career, Hernandez says Melbourne Victory helped him grow as a player.

“It was great experience playing in Australia. I could perform my job with a fair amount of success and could grow as a footballer, with my club giving me ample opportunity to play,” says Hernandez, who scored 36 goals in 121 appearances for Melbourne Victory.

“I had offers to play in Europe but decided to go to Australia because I thought the A-League would give me more scope to grow as a player. Now I hope India will offer me the opportunity to show what I have gained so far,” says the soft-spoken Costa Rican.

He believes his success here will inspire a lot of his compatriots to come to India. “Yes, my game would showcase the Costa Rican passion for the game and serve as an example for many talented players in my country who are willing to come. My experience here will definitely help in opening up the market, especially when the media in Costa Rica starts following my performance,” says Hernandez, who idolises the French legend, Zinedine Zidane, for his creative genius.

He is hopeful of Costa Rica making it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “Costa Rica has a new generation of players and it is almost certain to make it to finals,” he says.

When asked about his chances of making it to the Costa Rican National team at the age of 30, he sounds very confident. “You should remember that youth win games, but experience helps in winning titles. Many national teams have players in the age bracket of 35-36. I have a lot of football left in me and am always hopeful of playing in Brazil as I would have gained more experience by that time,” Hernandez says.