The Indian Super League starts on October 20 amidst unprecedented excitement and euphoria. The dearth of Indian football action in the lockdown has made fans impatient to witness live football once again, and the arrival of 20th November will be much awaited.
All the teams have made some top signings leading up to the start of the league. Every team has their eyes set on the coveted trophy and the AFC Champions League spot, and Kerala Blasters are no different.
The Blasters have signed some great players this year, like Vicente Gomez, Bakary Kone, Costa Nhamoinesu and Gary Hooper. Out of all of these reputed names, if there is one which got the fans most pumped up and delighted, it has to be Gary Hooper.
The Englishman’s signing got everyone talking, and for the right reasons. After playing in the Premier League with Norwich City and the Champions League with Celtic, Gary Hooper brings with him some great experience which could propel the whole team in the right direction. IFTWC recently got a chance to talk to the man himself, and he went on to speak about some really interesting things.
The club had to battle it out with some other clubs in the race to get Hooper to sign for them. Ultimately, it was India where he headed. “I had a fair bit of interest from different clubs across various countries and after weighing up all my options I decided that KBFC was the best choice for me. I wanted to experience a new league and a different culture. Kerala Blasters being one of the biggest clubs in India with a passionate and renowned fanbase, prompted my decision to join the squad. Moreover the clear visions of the club and their goals for me, was an added boost of confidence to my decision. I feel coming to India and playing for KBFC will be a great experience for me,” Hooper said.
The departure of Bartholomew Ogbeche was a big one. The Nigerian was instrumental in the team’s campaign last season, and was an absolute fan favourite as well. Does that put any pressure on Hooper though? He doesn’t think so. “I am used to playing under pressure and have played in front of very large crowds in the Champions League and Premier League. I am confident I can have a big impact on the team by scoring and assisting goals.”
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After last season’s triumph in the I-League, coach Kibu Vicuna was roped in by Kerala Blasters to lead them this season. Speaking about him,. Hooper said, “I am excited to work with Kibu. He has a good reputation and has managed some great teams. I can’t wait to start training with the boys.”
The one thing which almost every player who plays or played for the Blasters talks about is the fans. The Manjappada has had a big impact on the club and their presence is always felt. This year the matches will be played behind closed doors, which means Hooper and the others will miss the fans this season. “It is a real shame that the fans will not be able to attend the matches and support us but their safety is of utmost importance. Every team and player is in the same situation so we’ll just have to adjust and get on with it,” he said.
This season will be crucial for Kerala Blasters. In all these years they have failed to win the ISL and Hooper is determined to change that. “My main aims are to settle quickly, score goals, provide assists and ultimately help the team compete for top positions in the league.”
All eyes will be on the club from down South and Gary Hooper will be crucial for them. The fans will be rooting for their success this season again, and only time can tell whether Kerala Blasters manages to break the curse or not.