From the iconic Mohammed Habib and Akbar of the yore to ATK Mohun Bagan’s Michael Soosairaj and Michael Regin of the current generation – Indian football, over the years, has celebrated several sibling duos.
Legendary Olympian PK Banerjee and his younger brother Prasun, though they never played in the same era, as well as Covan and Climax Lawrence in the 2000s are some other prominent examples, amongst many.
However, when it comes to overseas footballers playing in India, instances of brothers playing together is almost unheard of.
In recent memory, only the names of Gregory Nelson and Gianni Zuiverloon come to mind. The Dutchmen, who used to play in the Indian Super League (ISL) for different teams, were cousins.
I-League 2021, though, is witnessing a special case. NEROCA FC’s foreign recruits Nathaniel and Judah Garcia are real brothers, playing for the same team in the same competition.
Fans following the I-League will be familiar with Trinidad and Tobago international Nathaniel, who played last season for Gokulam Kerala.
The 27-year-old Nathaniel has shifted base to Manipuri club NEROCA FC this season and brought his younger brother Judah along with him.
“When Nathaniel told me that there was an opportunity to play here, I was more than happy to hop on the plane with him. I’ve always wanted to play in another country,” 20-year-old Judah told the I-League website.
Both brothers are full-fledged internationals and have been capped four times each by the Trinidad and Tobago national football team. While Nathaniel has experienced playing club football abroad before with Gokulam, this is Judah’s first venture outside his home country.
For young Judah, it’s a big step. The current COVID-19 situation, though, hasn’t made it easy, considering social interactions have been severely limited due to the ongoing pandemic.
Having his elder brother around to guide him in these testing times, Judah says, has been a blessing.
“It’s a difficult proposition. Not only do you have to stay away from your family for so many months but you are also not allowed to step out of the hotel other than training or matches. But having my brother as my room-mate has really helped,” Judah said.
The Super Garcia Bros
Before travelling to Kolkata for the I-League the Garcia brothers’ first stop in India was Imphal for pre-season training with the NEROCA squad.
Elder brother Nathaniel recounted it took some effort to convince their new team-mates that they were actually brothers.
“Some thought that we just happened to have the same last name. Some asked whether we are cousins. But we cleared all their doubts. Yes, we are brothers from the same parents,” Nathaniel quipped.
There were no doubts about the family chemistry, though, when the two brothers took the field together for the very first time during NEROCA’s I-League 2021 clash against Indian Arrows on January 20.
The duo guided their team to a 4-0 win, with Judah starring with a brace. Nathaniel, meanwhile, ran the midfield and provided two assists in the match.
“We have played together for a long time, at the same club, and for the national team. I play as a striker and my brother is an attacking midfielder. So we always had a bit of a chemistry. I hope we can use that to score many goals this season,” Judah said.
Football runs deep in the Garcia household
Born to Carl and Judith Garcia of the Santa Flora community in southern Trinidad, football has always been a big part of the Garcia household.
Of the four brothers and two sisters, Daniel – the eldest – played both cricket and football and inspired all his siblings to take up sports.
While Nathaniel and Judah have already made quite a name for themselves as footballers, 23-year-old Levi Garcia has been the most successful of the lot.
Levi was in Dutch club AZ Alkmaar’s books from 2015 to 2018 and garnered praise from the legendary Marco Van Basten – who was the assistant manager of the club back then.
He currently plays for Greek club AEK Athens and has even played in the UEFA Europa League.
Both the Garcia sisters, too, are passionate football fans.
Lead photo: AIFF