29-year-old Naveen Kumar recently left FC Goa to join Kerala Blasters for the upcoming 2018-19 season. After serving as the deputy to Laxmikant Kattimani for the majority of the Indian SUper League (ISL) last year, Kumar took the field in latter half of the season. He appeared in seven matches for the Goan club and managed to keep two clean sheets.
In an interview with Goal, the goalkeeper mentioned that even though he sat out for most of the season, the FC GOa experience was a memorable one for him. “I had a great experience at FC Goa last season. Initially, I did not get many opportunities to start but in the latter half of the season, I became a regular. The coach Sergio Lobera showed faith in me and it was really great,” said Naveen.
Naveen Kumar, along with former India U17 goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, will now compete for the Kerala Blasters' No.1 spot.
The experienced custodian seemed very excited to join youngster Dheeraj and is also looking forward to playing under former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, who is his idol.
Naveen said, “I am looking forward to playing for Kerala Blasters. They have a young goalkeeper like Dheeraj (Singh). I will have to compete with him. David James, of course, has been a great goalkeeper himself and I can learn a lot from him. I used to follow him in 2010 when he represented England in the World Cup. It will be a learning process for me overall.”
It has not been a particularly easy journey for the Punjab-born custodian. He started his career on a very promising note at Pailan Arrows. But things did not go as planned as his career progressed. He had joined Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan early in his career but did not appear in a single game.
After that, he moved to Goa where he played for Salgaocar FC and Churchill Brothers but never lived up to his potential. Joining ISL last season was a career-changing move for him.
He said, “It has been a good journey so far. I have had so many experiences in these years. Some were good and some were bad. Overall, I cannot complain. But joining the ISL has only made things better for me."
On asked on the differences between ISL and I-League, he mentioned, “You get to play with good quality foreign players which improve your quality. The top players of India take part in ISL. The competition in ISL automatically helps a player to improve his quality. Also, you get to play with quality opponents. Like this year, Kerala are playing pre-season matches against clubs like Girona FC and Melbourne City FC.”
Naveen aims to start in all matches this season for Kerala Blasters and help the club win their maiden title. “My first target this season is to play all matches. I also want Kerala Blasters to win the ISL title this season,” said a confident Kumar.
Before signing off, he said that the team will begin their pre-season training on July 10th. The club is yet to finalise a destination where they will have their pre-season camp.