What ever happened to? Fernando de Ornelas

De Ornelas in
Celtic colours.
In the summer of 1999 Crystal Palace became the first British club to sign a Venezuelan footballer when they signed winger Fernando de Ornelas from Happy Valley AA of Hong Kong.

De Ornelas was born on 29 July 1976 in the city of Caracas. He began his professional playing career with Maritimo Caracas in 1994 and had also played for Unión Táchira and Deportivo Italchaco before beginning his international football odyssey in Hong Kong.

He only ever played 9 games for Crystal Palace, starting 5 and coming on as a substitute in the others he left Palace in December 1999 with some fans complaining that he did not live up to expectations, however anyone with high expectations of a Venezuelan winger signed from a Hong Kong based side called Happy Valley would clearly not have a very firm grip on reality.

After leaving Palace he had an unsuccessful spell with Spanish side Real Zaragoza in which he failed to make a single appearance and then he joined Scottish side Celtic in December 2000. He got even less game time for the Glasgow giants than he had for Palace, he played in a friendly game against Bayern Munich and made only two league appearances for the first team. His league debut was as an 82nd minute substitute in a game against Dundee on 15 April 2000 and his other appearance came as a 73rd minute sub against Hibernian later that month.

Within a few months of arriving in Scotland he was on his way again. His next club were Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia where he also failed to settle, appearing in only 2 league games. It was during this first stint in European football that he began to establish himself as a regular first team player for the Venezuela national team. In the 1999-2000 period he played nearly as many games for Venezuela as he did for his European clubs.

His next move was to return to the Hong Kong league to play for South China AA, it was from here that he made his surprise return to British football in October 2001 when he was signed on a short term contract by QPR. Manager Ian Holloway threw him into the action as a late substitute in a game against Oldham Athletic, in which he didn't really do anything except earn himself a yellow card within about a minute of coming onto the pitch. He only ever made one more appearance for the club before being offloaded to Portuguese side Maritimo.

During his time in British football De Ornelas had three clubs, started six competitive games and appeared as a substitute in seven more, he never scored a goal in British football.

De Ornelas was a popular player for Odd Grenland.
He is pictured here in a game against IK Start.
After making only 4 league appearances for Maritimo, he had an equally unsuccessful stint with Gansu Tianma in mainland China, in which the highlight of his stay was probably being a team mate of Gazza during the self destructive Geordie's brief stint in Chinese football. His next club was 1.FC Nürnberg in the German 2nd division, where he had a five month stint.

In 2004 he joined Cypriot side Olimpiakos Nicosia where after 3 years of roaming around making sporadic appearances for a multitude of clubs he finally established himself as a regular first team player making 21 league appearances over the next two seasons bagging himself 3 goals.

In 2005 he joined the brilliantly named Norwegian team Odd Grenland where he made 57 league appearances and scored 11 goals (see video). This run of form earned him a recall to the Venezuela national team in 2005 and in 2007 he was part of the Venezuela squad for the Copa América tournament in Venezuela. He played in all three of the group games and helped the team progress to the 2nd round for the first time in the history of the competition. He also appeared in the 1-4 defeat to Uruguay in the quarter-final.

Fernando de Ornelas looks a pretty good player in this video, however the standards of 
defending and marking do not appear to be that great in the Norwegian first division.

De Ornelas and Bolivian defender Ronald Raldes
pictured during the group stage game between
Venezuela and Bolivia in Copa América 2007.
De Ornelas spent 3 seasons at Odd Grenland where he played alongside the likes of Cameroonian journeyman and former Sheffield United and Coventry player Patrick Suffo, Somen Tchoyi who is currently at West Brom in the Premier league and de Ornelas' Venezuela international team mate Ruberth Moran.

He made his last appearance for Venezuela in 2007, he made a total of 27 appearances for his country between 1999 and 2007 and scored 5 goals. Some of his international goals can be seen on this video.

After Odd Grenland were relegated to the Norwegian 2nd division De Ornelas returned to Venezuelan domestic football in July 2008 but after short stints with Monagas and Zulia he returned to Norway in 2009 to play for 2nd division side Mjøndalen IF, because his family could not settle back in Venezuela. He currently plays in the lower leagues of Norwegian football for semi-professional side Gulset IF.

De Ornelas never really set the world on fire for any of the clubs he played for, however he seems to have been well liked by the fans of Odd Grenland, he earned his place in the history of Venezuelan football by playing in the most successful Venezuela side ever to play in the Copa América and he has definitely earned his place on the list of the world's greatest international journeymen footballers.

Part of the What ever happened to? series.

1 comment:

  1. nice but you kind of missed the part where he became a priest.