BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Jessel Carneiro is the first Goan footballer to captain a non-Goan Indian Super League (ISL) team, the Kerala Blasters.
He is also the proud father of two children with girlfriend Jesmina, who he expects to marry at the right time.
“My daughter Ameliza is eleven years and my son is going to complete one in a few days. Ours is an old love story. We were neighbours until my girlfriend decided to go to the UK and I decided to stay back to pursue my football career,” discloses Jessel, as the football world in India is engrossed with his team’s last ISL match against Bengaluru FC.
Jessel, who hails from Maina-Curtorim in Goa, India, has been a soft-spoken character with the ability to shine as a left-back, springing forward on the left flank and sending menacing crosses in; and a dead ball specialist.
When he joined Kerala Blasters in 2019, departing from Dempo Sports Club, his script on football was clear – Jessel was capable of delivering what his coaches expected from him, and his performance in the first year earned him a contract until 2023.
“I can talk to you about my girlfriend and children in the UK, but not about my contract. I have offers, but that is not what I will discuss now,” said Jessel, as he indicates his eagerness in meeting his family that is expected to be with him during the Super Cup.
“My girlfriend was my neighbour and despite being older than me, our chemistry clicked. She moved to the UK, but that did not break our bond. She enjoyed life in the UK, and I wanted to prove myself as a footballer. We had the trust in each other and decided to live the way we are,” confesses Jessel.
Jessel shone for Dempo Sports Club in 2019 and was thereafter appointed captain of the Goa Santosh Trophy team, which lost in the semifinals. He was spotted and picked by Kerala, and therein began a new saga with football, two years of which were from within a bubble.
“We surely want to retain him. He is our captain, and his contribution to our team is phenomenal,” a senior member of Kerala Blasters think-tank told Gomantak Times Digital.
Four ISL clubs have an eye on Jessel, and from these four, two – FC Goa and Odisha FC – are in hot pursuit. Senior officials of both clubs admitted their interest in Jessel, though they were unwilling to bet on getting the player on board.
“FC Goa needs a left-back. That is an area they have been found wanting this entire season, and they could plug the gap with Jessel,” stated a source in the know.
“I have a few more years of good football in me. I intend on getting married and settling with my family in the UK. The season is still not over, we have still tournaments to win, and I will not allow thoughts of which club to join come in the way,” disclosed Jessel.
“Being the captain of a football team is different from being a captain of a cricket team. As captain, I keep the spirit of being a family alive amongst us. I am like a big brother. My duties are more off the field than on the field,” avers Jessel, when disclosing the effect captainship has had on him.
“Playing ISL has not been much different from playing for the Dempo Sports Club because the players then were of a high calibre too. Maybe, I was lucky to play with some of the top Indian and foreign players before joining ISL,” admits Jessel, as he moves from the past to the present.
Jessel has made 63 appearances for the Kerala Blasters in his four seasons with the team. These were coupled with a serious injury.
“I have cooled down through these years with the club. I have learnt that you don’t get anything by arguing,” says Jessel, whilst explaining his cool demeanour in having discussions with referees as captain of the team.
Kerala Blasters walked out of the knockout round of ISL 9 against Bengaluru FC during extra time when captain Jessel had already been substituted due to an injury.
Jessel was first appointed captain by coach Kibu when Sergio Cido was injured and was appointed permanent captain by present coach Ivan Vukomanovic on November 13 for the 2021-22 seasons, thus becoming the only Goan to have captained the team for two seasons.
And, perhaps one of the few defenders of ISL to have received only four yellow cards in his four-year history of the league.