ISL 2018: Having moved to Bengaluru FC, Kean Lewis looks to push for Indian football team call-up
One of the most lethal wingers in India, Kean Lewis is one player no Delhi Dynamos fan will forget anytime soon. Though his stint with FC Pune City was marred by injury and he was seen sitting out most of the time, his link up with Marcelinho at both Indian Super League (ISL) franchises from Delhi as well as Pune is something that has been keenly talked about by the Indian football fraternity.
Born in Thane, Mumbai, Lewis went on to play with teams such as PIFA FC, Tata Football Academy, before moving to the USA for further studies in sports management. During his stay in the States, the 25-year-old played football (or soccer, as they call it in America) for Houston Dynamo, Laredo Heat, and Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. A lot of fans may not know this, but Kean even went on to try out at 2015-16 Barclays Premier League champions, Leicester City FC at a young age of only fourteen.
Over the years, Kean Lewis has been working hard and one can safely say that he has been on the radars of many scouts and clubs. It was on June 3, 2018, that the flank runner was unveiled as Bengaluru FC’s latest recruit.
Here are excerpts from the exclusive conversation Kean Lewis had with Sportskeeda...
Q1. What or who played an instrumental role in your transfer to Bengaluru FC? Was there a factor that made you decide that BFC is the right choice for you?
Kean: From the time of its inception Bengaluru FC has grown in stature. They have put India on the World football map and have determinedly gone about taking on new challenges. BFC gives opportunities to Indian players to prove their mettle. All this and the club's attractive style of football drew my attention.
I’ve always looked for the right guidance in making the decision before any new venture. A few elements that made my decision to join Bengaluru FC would be my agents Libero, and the club’s CTO Mandar Tamhane. The opportunity had come earlier as well but at that time I was contracted with Mohun Bagan, so this time when the opportunity came by I wasn’t going to let it pass.
Q2. A lot of fans have been waiting to watch you don the blue jersey for India. Views on your National call up?
Kean: I get asked this question quite often and this decision of getting the call up isn’t in my hands. I am eager to play for my country, but it will happen when the time is right. All I can do is work hard and play well to improve my chances of getting the call-up as early as possible. The rest is in the Coach’s hands.
Q3. Tell us more about your stint in the USA, how difficult has it been to blend into the Indian football scene as compared to playing in the States?
Kean: My decision to go to the USA was driven both by education and sport. Whilst I was in TFA, I continued to study for my 12th. The question was what I was going to be doing after I finished my 12th. Coming from a family that doesn’t have any history in a professional sport, I was always encouraged to play as long as my education didn’t stop. The USA offered me both. Fortunately, I was given a scholarship to play at a top university that played NCAA Division 1 soccer and I also could also pursue my preferred course in sports management.
Playing in the USA was a different experience. At the collegiate level, everything is organized and players could be followed everywhere across the country through their statistics and games viewed online. In India, it’s quite difficult to track players through online data, though that's slowly changing. For me coming back to India after 6 years of playing in the USA was a change, it was very different to how the clubs here were set up.
Facility wise, every club in the USA has to have their own training ground, gym facility and housing accommodation for the players. In India, not all clubs function that way. I was happy to get a good club, so I adjusted and dealt with the changes in India. The players here were of top quality so that wasn’t too hard to adapt to.
Q4. What kind of a difference in terms of quality of competition have you experienced in the ISL over the years? Perhaps, compared to your days at Mohun Bagan?
Kean: ISL’s setup and infrastructure have improved over the years. Along with IMG, AIFF has also integrated the way clubs are run. They’ve constantly been improving their facilities and management. With better foreigners and a higher budget, the quality is also very high.
The biggest and most positive change has been for the Indian players. Over the years the ratio of foreign to Indian players has changed, making room for more Indian players to play. This has improved the quality of the Indian domestic players and more importantly put more focus on them rather than the foreigners. We must keep in mind that the league is for the development, grooming, and exposure of the Indian players, so they should always be the focus.
Mohun Bagan played in the I-League which has a different structure when you consider the ISL. So, it would be unfair to compare the two.
Q5. From the number of teams you have played for in and outside of the country, which club have you enjoyed playing for the most? Do you miss playing overseas?
Kean: I miss playing in Texas the most. I lived there for 2 years after my graduation. I worked and played in the state, so I have many memories of the three clubs I played for there, Houston Hurricanes, Houston Dynamo and Laredo Heat. Although Houston Dynamo is a big name and a MLS team, I have fonder memories with Laredo Heat.
The owner Shashi Vaswani has established this team in a small town called Laredo near the border of USA and Mexico. I made my transfer mid-season into their team from Houston Dynamo. I had a very warm welcome and a family-like stint there. They even encouraged me to return to India for trials when they weren’t making the playoffs. That's how I had the opportunity in India towards the end of their season.
Coincidentally, I was supposed to go back to Laredo this summer and play over there. However, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to due to some reasons. I would still love to play with them again someday in the future.