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At ISL, Telif Fernandes breaks language barriers

The Indian Super League (ISL) sees footballers of various nationalities come ply their trade in the country. Saturday’s media event in the city saw players and coaches from all eight teams take centre stage at the NSCI stadium, Worli. But the biggest cheer of the day went to 69-year-old Telif Fernandes. Why? Fernandes, a professional translator, makes sure nothing gets lost in translation when anyone wants to interact with the who’s who of the football tournament.


When it came to the Italian of Chennai coach Marco Materazzi, Fernandes was there to make the media feel at ease. Helping FC Goa’s Zico (manager) and Lucio get over their Portuguese dialect was none other than the Bandra resident. He once again came to the rescue of Cesar Farias’s (North East United manager) Spanish. No media interaction started without Fernandes. He was as important as the players.

The list doesn’t just end at English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. French, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi and Konkani makes it nine in all for Fernandes, who originally hails from Madgaon, Goa. Dressed in a black suit, Fernandes was all smiles. “English for you, my boy,” he bursts out laughing. “I was born in Goa so I learnt Portuguese and Konkani very soon. The school I went to also taught me English so that makes it three languages by the time I was a teenager.”

To pursue a future in electrical engineering, Fernandes made the trip to Mumbai in the late 60s where he studied at Sardar Patel College of Engineering. “This city taught me Marathi and Hindi. You can’t do without them over here.”

Wanting to learn more languages, Fernandes picked up French and Spanish. His expertise in the latter saw him land a job at the Spanish Embassy in New Delhi. “It’s a lovely language. Gracias (thanks). Languages like Spanish and Portuguese are a big help when you converse with South Americans. Football being the biggest example.”

Fernandes now has gone into teaching foreign languages professionally. He has his very own training institute named Language Lab that has been operational for the past 20 years in Bandra. “Spanish is the easiest. Portuguese and French are the toughest as there is too much grammatical syntax involved. That said, Portuguese and English is the language spoken at home. Even my son and daughter only know those two languages. I’m lucky that way.”

A Brazil and Goan football fan himself, Fernandes is well versed with the latest happenings in the beautiful game. “Knowing so many languages would come in handy on a day like this. Lovely. I’ve watched Dempo, Salgaocar play back home so I love it when I translate something in Portuguese. It feels nice to be the voice of Zico in a way,” he adds not before getting a pat on the back from FC Goa’s Elano blummer who says obrigado (thank you)