In June 2015, when Kean Lewis was still plying his trade with Laredo Heat in the United States of America (USA), his agent coerced him to terminate his contract mid-season, convincing him that Bengaluru FC were willing to offer him a trial. As Laredo Heat was already out of contention for the play-offs in that season, Lewis managed to make his way out and return to India with the hope of donning the blue jersey.
But he landed in Bengaluru only to find out that his agent was duping him all throughout. When Lewis contacted Ashley Westwood, the then coach of Bengaluru, he was told the Southern Eagles were not looking for a winger and he cannot be offered an immediate trial as the team was yet to start practising for the next season.
"I was annoyed after hearing all this. I left my club mid-season in the States, spent around INR 1 lakh to get back to India in three days, only to understand that I have to wait for three more weeks to get a trial as the team would resume practice only in July," said the Mumbai-based winger reminiscing the torrid time he underwent.
He went on to join Mohun Bagan a few weeks later but Lewis will finally get to walk out on the pitch at the Sree Kanteerava stadium next season as he is all set to feature for the Super Cup champions in the 5th edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), having agreed to a one-year deal.
The Tata Football Academy (TFA) product is coming off a dismal domestic season which was marred by an injury and later a tussle with FC Pune City management and coach Ranko Popovic. It also meant he was sidelined from the starting XI for the rest of the season. He made only seven appearances, clocking a mere 207 minutes in which he could not even register a shot on target.
"There are a lot of things responsible for my dip in performance since I joined Pune. I got injured and it took a really long time to get to a conclusive decision with the Pune medical staff. It took around a month to find the correct rehabilitation method and I missed a crucial part of the pre-season where the team was gelling.
"So Popovic started getting annoyed as there was no fixed date of my return and it took a long time to correctly diagnose my injury. It is one of the reasons. When the games began, we had a shaky start to the tournament. For some reason, he started blaming me for the losses. And the weird part was he never picked on anybody else," Lewis opened up.
"If we closely analyse, we find that in the first game, other players made mistakes and we lost the tie. Even the goal that we conceded against Chennaiyin FC, he didn't blame the player who was marking Henrique Sereno but blamed me saying that if I had moved quicker, I would have got to the ball first," rued Lewis.
The Serbian tactician had openly criticised the winger in the post-match press conference after losing 3-1 to Bengaluru FC saying, "Kean today did nothing for our team. We are losing as a team but he has to think and to do a little bit more."
It was rumoured that the 25-year-old had an opportunity to try his luck elsewhere as ATK and FC Goa were interested in him during the January transfer window. Surprisingly, the team management did not allow Lewis to leave even when he was not part of the coach's plans.
"It is very frustrating for a player to sit on the bench. You want to play every minute. But there were some other players as well who were bench-warmers even after performing well in the minimum opportunity they got," said Lewis.
The Thane-born player had a scintillating season with the Delhi Dynamos in the 2016 ISL season under the tutelage of Gianluca Zambrotta where he appeared 14 times. But he was drafted in by Pune City and failed to build on his performance from the previous season. It seems that Lewis is not a fan of the ISL draft system.
"This is exactly the same system that they have in the States. After the college level, players are thrown in a draft according to their statistics. I’m not sure how well it works when professional players are involved as they are more or less established already.
"We are left with no choice as to where we want to go. Even if I wanted to go somewhere else I could not. But it does not mean that I wanted to go elsewhere. But that is the format and you have to abide by the rules," opined Lewis.
After a solid 2016-17 season Lewis had thought that the doors of the national team would open for him.
"I think what happened to me at Pune is happening with my national selection as well. The coach has a set team at his disposal and he likes to get younger players into the squad. That is how it is. I don't worry about my national team selection. The less I worry, the better it is. What is not in my hands I just leave it up to God."