Exclusive: "Everyone from Goa has played football at some stage in their life" - In conversation with FC Pune City star Keenan Almeida
Keenan Almeida is a right-back presently playing for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League. He began his youth career at Salgaocar and broke into the first team after two years of development. Since then, he has experienced stints at a host of clubs, including Sporting Goa, FC Goa and loan spells at Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers.
He was also a part of the Chennaiyin FC side that lifted the ISL trophy last season. The full-back is yet to unleash his dynamic, solid and combative style of play due to a knee surgery sustained earlier in pre-season.
We caught up with him for an exclusive chat and here's what he had to say about his personal life, FC Pune City and his career targets.
Q. How have you come about your footballing journey? What inspired you to start and pursue the sport professionally?
I started playing football at the age of eight at the school level and under-age categories. Support from my parents was a major factor that led me into pursuing football professionally.
Q. You are from a small part of India - Goa. Could you tell us if and how the sport is celebrated there? Is it a football-crazy state?
I can for sure claim that everyone from Goa has played football at some stage or another in their life. And many girls play football in Goa as well. It runs in the blood of the Goans I can say.
Q. You started out at Salgaocar FC and then went on to play for Churchill Brothers and FC Goa. Can you tell us about your days back then? How was your experience with these clubs and how did it shape you as a professional?
Yes, I started my professional career with Salgaocar. Then, I got promoted from their junior team to the senior level. Then I moved to Sporting Club de Goa. I got my major playing start under coach Oscar Bruzon at Sporting and from there, I got a call-up to the under-23 national team.
Later, I played for Salgaocar for another year. And then moved to Churchill brothers for one season in the I-League.
My experience at all these clubs has been of immense importance to me because I have learnt different things at each of these places - something that helped me in my career. All the owners of these four teams are passionate about the sport, so playing for such teams helped me a lot.
Q. What has been your best performance so far? Do you remember it?
Best performance so far? Well, I can’t really judge that because football is all about ups and downs. Form at times dips and rises as well, so I cannot pinpoint a particular game or season.
Q. You won the 2017/18 season of the ISL with Chennaiyin FC. What brought you and attracted you to FC Pune City?
After the title-winning season with Chennaiyin last year, I had to decide about my future. I had talks with a few clubs. The officials at Pune convinced me that it would be the best for me to join them. And since I wanted to take up another challenge in life, I decided to switch to Pune.
Q. What is the message you'll give yourself and to your fans before you earn your first chance for Pune?
Well, this season it won’t be possible for me to play as I picked up an injury while training with the team during pre-season - had to undergo a knee surgery. It will take around six months to be back to competitive sport. So right now, I am on with my rehab and physiotherapy to get back to fitness. Let's just wait till then.
Q. Who is your idol/favourite right-back?
My all-time favourite right-back is Philipp Lahm.
Q. If not professional football, what profession would you practice?
If it wasn’t any profession in sports then probably it would be something related to accounts as I have done my graduation in cost accounting.
Q. If you have to send out a few motivational words to young, aspiring footballers in India, what would it be?
My message to anyone who wants to pursue any sport professionally - dream about what you want to achieve and start working hard with all the dedication and desire needed to achieve your dream.