Marius Fernandes is ‘Festakar of Goa’. That’s just one of his dual identities. He’s in fact a registered supporter of Leicester City Football Club. That’s a 45-year-old association.
As part of our Humans of Goa series, we caught up with Marius to understand how he juggles both Festakar and being one of Leicester City’s biggest fans.
How many in your family, Marius?
I was born on 24th of May 1959 and I am the eldest of six children, my name is Marius Fernandes. My younger brother, Mathias, is the only family member to be born here in St. Mathias, Divar. I stay with my mother Antoinette who is 90 years old and my father, Bernard Fernandes, passed away who spent his life in Kenya and London. I was happily married to Sheela Fernandes, who passed away, and have two children – Gemma Fernandes and Ashely Fernandes.
Where do you live in Goa & what is your profession?
I reside here in my ancestral house in St. Mathias, one of the two villages in Divar Island. Talking about my profession, I don’t have a profession. I came back to Goa 20 years ago as my social responsibility. In this world, everyone works differently, some work for others, whereas, some run their own business. But I thought of doing something different. In this world 95% of the population are always taking and just 5% are giving back, and I was determed to join these 5%. I held a very good job in England in British Telecom, but 20 years back, in the year 2000, I left the job so that I could do something different and came here to Goa to do something different and carry out my social responsibility. So when people ask me about my profession, I just say that there is no such profession. As what I do no one has ever tried and done before – it is something out of the box. When I put forward my idea of celebrating the traditional Goan festivals with no funds, no sponsors, no chief guest and no alcohol, people find it really difficult to celebrate all these festivals without all these things. We have ruined the spirit of the festivals by involving the ministers.
Tell us about Festakar. How did that happen?
When I first came here to Goa in the year 2000, for months together I went around to see different festivals in Goa being celebrated, and was surprised to see that festivals in Goa are celebrated only with the help of the politician and their sponsors, which was really sad to see. I was here for 6 months and later I was inducted as the sports secretary in St. Mathias Sports Club. In the month of August the club got ready to organise the famous festival of Bonderam. That year I saw that the festival didn’t start at 4 not at 5 and was delayed because of the politician who was supposed to come as the chief guest. Thousands of people were waiting on the streets for the chief guest to come. People were afraid to start the festival because they had taken sponsors from this politician. At around 5:30 pm the minister sends a message saying he can’t make it and I was really shocked looking at what was happening. And this is the time when I decided to change the way of celebrating festivals.
Which are the festivals that you have participated in?
I have not participated in any of these festivals, but these are all my festivals. Till date I have curated 49 festivals in places all over Goa celebrating Goa’s Culture, Tradition, Food, Dance, Theatre and everything. I have celebrated all kinds of festivals in different Villages of Goa. I have a different way of celebrating festivals. We have free food; people get together keeping aside all the grudges’ people have among them. We try and innovate all the festivals. Take for example when we celebrate Cashew Festival, people just know Cashew Fenni, but we innovated a new dish from cashew called Cashewtel for which we use sorpotel masala and half raw cashew. Make pieces of the Cashew, mix it in the sorpotel masala, marinate it overnight and keep it in the fridge and cook it the next day. It tastes really good and is a purely vegan dish. So, I try to innovate every different festival. Similarly for Jackfruit Festival we collected many jackfruit seeds dried it, roasted it, took it to the mill and made powder of it which is used as caffeine-free coffee. So, these things are not just restricted to the festivals but we can even do business out of it.
When we started with the idea, I faced a lot of difficulties. Different Villages in Goa have different mindsets. I had to deal with different kinds of people. When I told them about my way of celebrating the festivals with no alcohol, no funds, no chief guest, it was difficult for them to understand the concept but later when we organised it, people actually loved it.
Which is your favorite festival and why?
I first celebrated Patoleanche Fest in Socorro and hence it is my favourite festival. I was fortunate enough that I knew Fr. Santana Carvahlo who was the Parish Priest of the Our Lady Of Succour Church, who helped and supported my idea. Unfortunately Fr. Santana passed away last year. He helped me a lot to gather people, encourage them to get the food prepared, organise some traditional folk dance and everything. It took me two months to get everything done. Every ward in the Parish was given some responsibility of either performing a dance or making some food item. This created a bond and feeling of love among the villagers. We had to hunt for around 2000 fresh turmeric leaves to prepare the Patoleos. On the day of the festival all the villagers gathered and happily celebrated the festival. The villagers were also given Patoleos free as well as plant saplings of the turmeric plant (which are used for preparing Patoleos) were distributed. Today Succoro village is full of Patoleo leaves. When Fr. Santana and myself first spoke to the villagers, they thought it would be difficult to organize a festival without funds and needed the help of some politician. But later when we spoke to them about contributing things all were ready. We made sure no plastic was used. We served the food in plates made out of leaves. Since we had less time to prepare, we took help from a local who was dealing with leaf plates and were able to teach the villagers to make the plates. Everything was prepared by the villagers. And I thank the media as well who covered the entire festival.
What’s the plan for 2022?
The future is uncertain. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next year. But we will be having the golden jubilee festival – the 50th festival next year, but when it will happen I can’t say because of the ongoing situation as we are already having a new variant of the virus. The festival will happen in front of my house and will be dedicated to my mother who has always helped and supported me with my ideas. I always consult my mother to know how the festivals were being celebrated 80 years back. So the next Festival will be called as Sonsarache Fest or Earth Festival in English. For this festival everything will be round, since the world is round. In music we will have Ghumot, which is round, then in food we will have Watermelon, which is also round and in sports there will be Football which is also round. So on this day everything that is round will be celebrated that day. According to me, during this difficult time of the pandemic, the rich have become more rich and poor people have became more poor. So for me on this day of the festival it will be Year 0, a new beginning. Then I will invite everyone to come along with various kinds of vegetable seeds and during the time of the festival everyone will exchange the seeds and go back home and cultivate the seeds. The main motive behind this activity is that people should learn to cultivate on their own and not depend on someone else.
How did the pandemic affect your organizing of feasts?
Since the planning for the entire festival is done by me all alone and knowing people are dying of the virus, it has been my responsibility to ensure that there should be no spread of the virus. Since I don’t require any permission from the panchayat or the government body and as my festivals are organised either under a tree, open air or even on some beach, I am taking precautions that there should be no spread of the virus through my festivals. The day when the government raises the restriction on celebrating festivals it is at that point of time I’ll go ahead with my festivals. One thing which I will miss about this festival is the number of people that used to come for this festivals.
What made you fall in love with Football?
When I was in school, football in Goan schools was vibrant wherein we used to play football frequently. It was not just about football but we also used to play other sports such as kabaddi, hockey, table tennis, badminton, carrom and many more. We were lucky to have St. Mathias Sports Club here in Divar. It was in the year 1976 when I went back to England, my father had already gone to Leicester in England from Africa and when I went there I fell in love with the place. It was like two people getting married. At that time, Leicester had the best of football clubs, the best cricket as well as basketball teams and these are the sports which I love the most. By coincidence I got a job in the British Telecom and within few months I started playing sports there and representing them. I used to play sports and represent them so much that that used to be a ray seen at work. So the next thing that I had to do is identify my local team. Within weeks of my return to Leicester, a neighbor asked me to join him to watch a match at Filbert Street, Leicester. This started my 13 years long association with the team as a season ticket holder. I used to never miss a single match.
When did the love affair with Leicester City start?
1976 was the first year when I went for a match and it is till date, I support Leicester City. It has been almost 50 years now that I support Leicester City and it makes me the only supporter of Leicester City in the whole of India because here in India, we usually support only the winning teams such as Real Madrid, Manchester United or Barcelona. But I have been loyal to just one club over allthese years.
Why Leicester City only? Why not Arsenal or Villa even?
As I have said that I have been supporting Leicester City for so many years now, and as I have lived in Leicester for almost 25 years, I will definitely support a team where I have lived so long. Staying in Leicester and supporting some other club would have been betrayal from my side to Leicester. Therefore, for so many years, I have not just supported Leicester City but also helped them in community work.
Tell us about your son’s story of becoming the youngest member of a club?
As a loyal supporter of Leicester City. I loved the name Ashely who was the striker of the team. So me and my wife thought of naming our son after the Leicester City team striker Ashely Ward.
As a soccer fanatic, Ashley was just 70 minutes old when I rushed to register his name in my favorite club, making him the youngest registered member.
How did you feel when Leicester won the title in 2015? What did you do?
Leicester City was formed in the 1880s it has been there now for almost 150 years but were never recognized. However, in the year 2015 when they won the league they got proper recognition.
We had an interesting manager named Claudio Ranieri who had brought some interesting players from Europe – England, France and Italy. I was really optimistic.
I was here in Goa at that time. I called up my kids in England and told them to place a bet as they were 5000 – 1. But not knowing how to bet, they didn’t do it.
Not many people knew about this club, but when they won the title it was a time of celebrations. They won many matches throughout the year.
People from Leicester celebrate the victory even today. Claudio Ranieri had a tough time the next season as all the players were sold out.
How do you like Leicester’s football under Rodgers? How’s it different from Ranieri’s?
When Rodgers came in I was really happy as he was ex Liverpool manager and had really good records. And now under Rodgers Leicester has won some titles over the past two years. Rodgers is a brilliant coach and motivator and I hope he continues there for some more years.
What will you do if Leicester win the Champions League?
To win the champions league you have to be In the top four of the league, so that’s not going to happen this year probably.
Whoever wins the league automatically comes into the champions league, and wining the champions league is ultimate.
In the UEFA champions league one has to compete with the top teams and if Leicester win the league it’s the ultimate. But I still think winning the English Premier League is the most difficult, because it is highly competitive.
You can catch a snippet of this conversation on ItsGoa‘s Instagram page. Humans of Goa is our original and official series that shares stories from the lives of Goans. ‘Humans of Goa’ celebrates the spirit of every Goan.
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