Life is strange. For India's foreign boxing coach BI Fernandes, it is stranger still. If till the Beijing Olympics, he was just another boxing coach in Cuba and was more famous in India, one bronze at Beijing Olympics has changed everything. He has become famous in his own country as well.
“I have become quite famous," reveals Fernandes coyly. "In our country everybody knows a boxing medallist and even the coach."
"Only the other day, when I was talking to my wife, she told me she met a journalist in my hometown (Villaclara), who asked about me and my association with Indian boxing. He knew me and my achievements. He was saying I am the coach of world class boxers," says Fernandes. "And of course, Vijender and Akhil are famous too. Now they know their names and follow them."
Fernandes, who went home in December 2008, returned to India only last year in August. Though he missed the India camp, he did not complain. "I was very happy to spend time with my wife and daughter," he says.
But the reason for late arrival, he says, is because Cuba did not release him. “We have to wait for our government's decision.”
Fernandes, who has been associated with Indian boxing for the last 17 years, started as a small-time coach in a small provincial school in Villaclara in Cuba. “Boxing was the only thing I was good at and I followed my heart,” is his excuse for becoming a coach.
What is Cuba doing right now? “They are in a process of building a team for the next Olympics,” he says. “The average age of their boxers is 21 and they will be ready by 2012 and 2016.”
On India's chances here, he says, “Our boxers are in great shape and will give the best result.”