It isn’t unusual for young players to make mistakes early on in their careers, yet Racing’s talented 22-year old playmaker Brian Fernández has certainly had more than his fair share during his short spell at the top.
Head coach Diego Cocca brought Fernández with him from Defensa y Justicia to Racing back in 2014, and the forward duly paid back the faith entrusted to him by, first, scoring 5 goals in 12, before later testing positive for cocaine in May 2015. The resulting three-month ban from AFA seemed reasonable – lenient in fact – granting the playmaker benefit of the doubt as a result of his impressionable age.
A second positive result following a game against Paraguay’s Guaraní in the same month, however, was not met with the same sympathy by South American governing body CONMEBOL, who promptly slapped Fernández with a hefty two year ban.
Armed with the advice of previous offender Diego Maradona, who was infamously banned for 15 months after testing positive for the same substance in 1991, the forward was ordered to attend a Mexican drug rehabilitation centre.
At this point, Fernández’ career could have easily dissipated into that wealthy pool of talentosos olivados; players forgotten almost just as quickly as they burst onto the scene.
But, after coming on as a substitute in Monday night’s Torneo del Verano tie versus struggling Avellaneda rivals Independiente, Fernández promptly wrapped up a comfortable 3-0 win with a deft volleyed finish just inside the box, an impressive move which he started himself.
Fernández’ tears spelled an understandable amount of emotion, and the Racing’s squad’s appreciation for their desequilibrante was plain to see as they rushed to the corner flag to celebrate.
Meanwhile, angered Independiente fans gathered outside the team hotel in Salta following the defeat, protesting against failing results.
Reintroduced to the fold last week after having trained with the reserve squad, manager Diego Cocca had previously extended Fernández’ ban as a result of his turning up late to the team’s pre-season training in Mar Del Plata; an example of Cocca’s tough love approach towards the player he’s coached for over three years.
“We’ve decided to bring him, because really he’s understood what he has to do”, said Cocca. “It seems to me like the best thing for him, and the best thing for the team, is for him to return.”
With Racing in 10th position and 10 points off the top going into the second half of the season, La Academia shouldn’t hesitate to welcome Fernández back into the fold with open arms.
Lesson learned, we hope.