New Delhi: He has been around for so long that India`s Cuban boxing coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes doesn`t even consider himself a foreigner anymore so much so that he skipped his only daughter`s wedding to train Vijender Singh and Co at the national camp.
"The boys consider me like a father now and I get so much respect and affection from them that I don`t even feel homesick anymore," Fernandes told PTI in an interview.
"Last year in June, my only daughter, Sochye, got married but I could not go because I had to be in the camp to train the boys for the Olympic Qualifiers (the World Championships in Azerbaijan). She is now settled in Mexico and is still waiting to meet me," he said.
The 56-year-old, who first joined the team in 1990, has picked up Hindi and learnt Bhangra as well.
"I feel like an Indian only but yes, I do miss my family sometimes. I sent my daughter a present on her wedding and she has told me that `Papi I will build an academy for you in Mexico so that we can spend some time together`," he laughed.
He has been with the team in quite a few Olympics but a medal came through only in 2008.
Asked what has changed in Indian boxing as an unprecedented seven boxers head to the London edition, Fernandes said, "They don`t think of losing anymore. They are fearless and have learnt to handle the pressure pretty well.
"Every year we are improving and the results are there to be seen in Continental events such as the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games," he said.
"This time at the Olympics, I am sure we will get more than one medal...At least three I am hoping," said the Cuban, referring to the bronze that Vijender Singh clinched in the Beijing edition.
Fernandes said better facilities have increased the talent pool which explains the increasing number of younger boxers making a mark at the international level.
"Look at Shiva Thapa (18), he is a fantastic kid. There are others like him who are making a mark at the senior level quite early. All this is the result of a process that has been successful," he said.
"The team right now is in harmony and are full of confidence having beaten top boxers in the qualifiers and this would help in the Olympics," he added.