Nomadic Pastoralism – an Interview with Adrián ‘Carucha’ Fernández
Adrián ‘Carucha’ Fernández, a football labourer, epitomises the nomadic lives of so many players who earn their living just playing the beautiful game, irrespective of the country, club or league! Uri Levy interviewed the footballer late last year, and now the same has been published here at Goalden Times in its refined form.
Not every football player earns millions of dollars, wears shiny clothes and drives fancy cars. Actually most of them do not. Most players must work extremely hard, to provide for their families and secure their own future. Nowadays, almost every team has foreign players from Latin America, Africa or Asia. A lot of them are talented players who played abroad for most of their careers, but never capped for their national teams. They are not millionaires, they haven’t signed commercial contracts and they do not have a Nike shoe named after them. They are the ‘football labours’, the true workers of this profession. They are almost always on the go. A call from an agent may lead to an international journey; today you are in Russia, tomorrow in Angola and next week in Saudi Arabia. Wherever the contracts and agents will take you, you go.
Adrián ‘Carucha’ Fernández, 33, is a representative example of a ‘football worker’. His career took him through many countries, obstacles, peaks, people and adventures, but he never gave up on his values and goals. We had the pleasure to catch up with Fernández over a cup of coffee and delve deeper into his life in the football world.
Fernández grew up in San Martin, a tough and a poor neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. Drugs, guns and crimes were a part of their daily lives .. A few of his friends, whom he played football with, are now dead or are in prison. In his case,Football was his only ticket out of this dreadful reality.
Fernández attributes his work ethics in football to the environment his parents fostered at home, teaching and showing him and his siblings the value of hard work and education.“I didn’t have seven pairs of shoes like my kids have today, thank God,”he says, tapping his kid’s head.“I had only one pair and I had to protect it well. Back then, we only had the hunger in our stomachs, , both for food and success, to keep us going.”.
I am 33 now. I have been playing professional football for 16 years. It’s true that I am not rich and that I don’t have a lot of money, but I am rich in cultures, spirit and experience. I could have stayed in Colo Colo for five years and won every title I wanted, but it didn’t happen. I could have been frustrated for it, but would I have then learn to speak six languages?”
Nicknamed ‘Carucha’ due to his wide-rounded face, Fernández made his debut for a local club, Nueva Chicago, when he was 17 and played there for five years. After he recuperated from a knee injury, he spent a season at El Povernir, before embarking on a journey abroad.
Chilean club, Colo Colo, was Fernández’s first stop outside Argentina. As an anonymous Argentinean, he debuted at the Chilean Classico and played with a few of Chile’s greatest players. Arturo Vidal, Matias Fernández and Claudio Bravo, all sported the Colo Colouniform those days. Seven months with Chile’s biggest club were enough to make a favourite of his fans — a recurring feat in his career since Fernández is loved in almost all the clubs he’s played for. “I am a very emotional person, and I give everything to the team. My teammates know that I’ll be there for them in any situation. I am not a star, because I am just not, but in every team I played for, I was an important player because of the things I brought to the field.”
His second team abroad was The Strongest of La Paz. The club had targeted qualifying for the Copa Libertadores and Fernández was taken in by the idea of playing in the region’s top tournament. Unfortunately, they failed. After 12 games and 6 goals, he left the club without a salary, as the management suffered financial losses owing to their failure in the Copa Libertadores. Luckily, Fernández impressed a German agent who saw him score a double. “Until then I never worked with agents, because I didn’t want anybody to manoeuvre me or control me. For agents, football players are just numbers. They can send you to play in China or Siberia when there is nothing there, as long as they pocket the money! Beyond that, you are not on their lists. . With Billy, it was different. We had a good relationship.”
When the Bolivian adventure came to an end, Fernández came back to Buenos Aires, with hardly any money and facing one of the toughest moments in his career. “Billy asked me to send him two video cassettes of my highlights from a DHL office. When I was asked to pay for the shipment, I realized I had just the last few hundred pesos left in my pocket. It was at that moment I asked myself: ‘Adrian, what are you doing? Where is this going?. Eleonora, my wife, helped me and encouraged me to pull myself together. It was the hardest moment of my life because I understood that if I wanted to progress, I had to leave Argentina for good. I’ve decided that I must look only forward and never look back”. So he did.
Since then, Fernandez travelled and played in Austria, Germany, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Israel. During his travels, Fernandez has raised a family with his wife Eleonora, learnt six languages, experienced new cultures and lifestyles and of course, scored several goals. “It’s very hard to adapt to a new place every year or two, but I am a nomad, ” he laughs. “I didn’t have an alternative. I was never offered fat contracts, so as a free agent, I needed the signing fee in order to live and save for. I am 33 now. I have been playing professional football for 16 years. It’s true that I am not rich and that I don’t have a lot of money, but I am rich in cultures, spirit and experience. I could have stayed in Colo Colo for five years and won every title I wanted, but it didn’t happen. I could have been frustrated for it, but would I have then learn to speak six languages?”
In Dubai, he played for Al Sha’ab and many of his teammates were multi-millionaires, who parked their Ferraris outside the training facility. In Switzerland, he had great spells both with Schaffhausen and St. Galen, and became a known striker in an European league; in Bulgaria, he learned the local language and culture. He also had his second child there. During his time in Chernomorets, he scored 18 goals, passed 12 assists in 62 matches and also played in the Europa League. When the team’s sponsors disappeared and the club had a funding problem, Fernandez tried to go back to Switzerland after talks with Lugano, but eventually found himself in Israel.In the past four seasons, Fernández was a second division striker. He played for Hapoel Ramat Gan, Ramat HaSharon, Hapoel Petah Tikva and now plays for Maccabi Herzliya. In parallel, he also coaches the young strikers of Hapoel Petah Tikva’s youth department. “Israel is my second home. Usually I change a country after two years and now it’s my fourth season here. It’s certainly a record,” he smiles modestly.
Fernandez, up close and personal: The Football Interview
Qs.1: What is your favourite position? –
Ans.Forward, of course.
Qs.2: What is your favourite formation of a football team? –
Ans.I think that there is no such thing like formations. It depends on the players you have in the team. As a coach, you must find the style of game that fits your players the most, in order to allow them to provide 100% of themselves, enjoy playing. Eventually, football is a game of momentum.
Qs.3: Who is the best coach you had?
Ans.There are two. Rolf Fringer at St. Galen and Krasimir Balakov at Chernomorets Burgas.
Qs.4: Describe Adrián Fernández.
Ans.It’s a sentence my father once told me. “I prefer that people will remember me as a great person than a great player. A good player is a good player, but a good person is someone who people remember as a friend, as a connection”. Well, that’s me.
Qs.5: What would you do if not playing football?
Ans. I would either become a chef or a movie actor.
Qs.6: Who is your favourite team?
Ans. Nueva Chicago. There’s no other.
Qs.7: Who is your favourite player?
Ans. Carlos Tevez. When I was a kid I liked Batistuta, Maradona and Ronaldo (‘El Fenomeno’).
Qs.8: What is your greatest football moment of all times?
Ans. My favourite moment was the promotion with Nueva Chicago to a Primera Division. It was my dream, it was my family dream. That was a moment of joy and pride.
Qs.9: What is your dream in football?
Ans. I have a football-coaching project in mind that I wish to develop in the United States, but I don’t like to call it a ‘dream’. I prefer to call it a ‘Goal’. Dreams are something we can’t touch. Goals are realistic and achievable.