The beautiful game has given him much to cheer about. But it has not come easy for Lenny Rodrigues, the international footballer from Goa.
Sheer passion, dedication and hard work have been the game changers for this FC Goa midfielder.
His canny ways in going against opponents has kept his frontliners on high alert throughout the 90-odd minutes of the game. And has proved rewarding for the 33-year-old player from Cortalim, in South Goa (Salcette), as the owners of FC Goa have extended his stay with the team for two seasons.
“Yes, it was tough in the beginning, as my father struggled to make ends meet with his job as a truck driver, and my mother was a housewife,” Lenny told The Free Press Journal on Monday.
It was baptism by fire for this lanky player as he found Fransa Pax, his first team, and he depended on his friend to reach practice.
"Rion D’Souza was my first coach, who took me into his fold to play for the team, and that was all I wanted, to play for a team in the Goa League,” said Lenny, adding that it was tough getting used to the team but he overcame all the hurdles.
“Today, I have a house and my parents are happy this game has changed our lives,” said the player who has, to date, not got a single red card, which indicates that he is a perfect player and a cool customer.
Born on May 10, 1987, in Verna, Goa, his forte is his range of passing skills, both the short and long varieties, which help make a seamless transition from defence to attack. His deft tackling and interceptions also help nip many an opposition attack in the bud.
Starting off as a striker, Lenny turned into a professional football player at the age of 17 when he played for Fransa-Pax, a club whose dissolution led Rodrigues to train with Salgaocar for a year-and-a-half.
He then went on to don the colours of Churchill Brothers, a club which supported him. He provided the backbone to Churchill Brothers which went on a title-collecting spree during this defensive midfielder's six-year stint with the club.
Rodrigues signed for Bengaluru FC in 2016, the I-League champions, on loan from Pune City.
Earlier, in 2012, Lenny made his senior international debut against Oman for India and then appeared 22 times for the national side, but unfortunately, was unable to score a goal. However, being a central midfielder, his midfield skills impressed everyone and is expected to perform better soon.
"But I always wanted to play for FC Goa, that was my dream and I am happy that I have reached there. I hope I will deliver for the side which has entrusted me with a two-season contract," he said.
There have been many clubs he has played across the country, from Mohun Bagan and FC Pune City, to name a few, and he was taken on by the Bengaluru FC. But now, as his flesh is becoming weak though his spirit is willing, all that he wants is to retire from the game on a high.