Twenty six years can be a watershed period for some or a time when dreams are still being weighed on a balance of pros and cons. “I am living my dream. I cannot imagine life without football. I am happy I followed my feelings after I finished my standard X exams,” says Keenan Almeida, another star player from Goa who began his ISL journey with coach Zico in FC Goa, moved to winners Chennaiyin FC and is now on his way to FC Pune City.
“Everyone dreams of playing for his country. I too want to play for India. I am working hard and am waiting for my call. But till that time, I will enjoy playing because playing football is what I dreamt of when young. Football is everything for me and will be so even after I stop playing,. I cannot imagine life without football,” confesses Keenan as he prepares his next steps.
Keenan is one of those who started as defender and believes he will continue in the same position. Yet, he does not rule out his ability to contribute scoring goals. “Eighty per cent of my game is on defending. The other twenty per cent I use in helping my colleagues in the attack. I am not a prolific scorer but if my tries end in goals, I look at it as an additional contribution to my team,” says Keenan who left many people in an adrenalin rush when he scored for FC Goa under Zico.
“Zico was a coach who gave us our space. He allowed us to express ourselves. He expected the defenders to play their roles while he expected the midfielders and strikers to be creative when they had possession. I was happy when I scored the goal for FC Goa. It was not expected but I now know how happy the team was when I scored the equaliser against ATK. It will remain as one of the happy moments of my career,” says Keenan.
Keenan has through his years in football developed well as a holder of space and marker of strikers. Whatever he does, he makes it difficult for others to squeeze past him. However, there are times he fails. “ How one plays depends on what the coach expects. Each coach has his own style of play. A player needs to adapt to the style and that is why each coach will have a different opinion of a player and so will a player think differently of coaches,” opines Keenan.
“Oscar Bruzon from Sporting was the best coach I played under. He gave me the break when I was young. He taught me the importance of being aggressive in getting the ball back once we lost possession. That is the most important lesson learnt from him and when I start teaching football, it will be my first lesson to others,” says Keenan when asked to zero on a coach that has helped him fine tune his career.
“There are coaches that are stern and demanding during practise and coaches that are rude on and off the pitch. I have come across both but I think in the end, coaches are humans . It is up to us to take what we want and to discard what we do not want. We as players are human too,” avers Keenan.
“The ISl has helped popularise football. It is organised more professionally then the I-league. There is more money now but what does one do with the money? Keep it in the bank or roam with it? I think it is more important to enjoy living. In the end, it is important to be happy,” feels Keenan.
Keenan and Adil Khan are two football players who have started thinking out of the box before their career could take them to another level. The duo has formed a team called AK 5 (A for Adil and K for Keenan) and sponsor youngsters that want to participate in unrecognised tournaments in Goa. “The team is just our way of giving back to boys what we did not get in our time. We pay the entry fee for tournaments and provide them with kits and refreshments during their participation. If they win, the prize money is divided amongst them,” discloses Keenan.
“Prayer helps some and does not suit others. I believe in God. My belief is through my intentions of being good. Good intentions are my way of being close to God,” confesses Keenan.
“I was impressed with Calderon in Chennaiyin. At 36 he is fit. He told me it is the way they are brought up, their eating habits from young that has helped him maintain his fitness. Our food consists of spices; our eating habits are different. There need to be a change in societal outlook,” suggests Kennan.
“I think my mother has had a greater influence in my life because my father worked in the ship and was at home for two months of the year while my mom was there always for me,” concludes Keenan.