Ashique: Kerala will always be home but my focus now is Bengaluru

Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 makes its much-awaited return after the international break on Saturday with Bengaluru FC hosting Kerala Blasters FC in what promises to be a mouth-watering Southern derby at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. One individual, in particular, who’ll be up for this encounter is Ashique Kuruniyan. Born in Malappuram, the prospect of going up against his home-state club Kerala is one that is surely to invoke mixed emotions for the Indian winger.

“For me, Kerala is home. Will there be a time when I play for Kerala Blasters? I don’t know, no one does. I am here (with Bengaluru) for at least the next four years and I am focused on that. This is how football is and no one ever knows how things will turn out and anything can happen. I am very happy that there is a team from Kerala in the Hero ISL because it gives me a chance to play in my home state one day,” Ashique said in a recent interview.

The 22-year-old also touched on the similarity between the two southern rivals. “It’s important to have a team there (in Kerala) because with the support they have, football will grow in the country, and the players get more confidence to play. The supporters of Kerala Blasters, Manjappada, and our fans here, West Block Blues, are two sets of very passionate people and their support for the teams really makes a difference during every game,” he said.

Ashique has come a long way since his debut with FC Pune City in Hero ISL 2017-18 and the pacey wideman reflected fondly on his time with the Stallions. “FC Pune City was an important part of my footballing career. I came to Pune five years back and as a kid. I was in the Pune academy for two years and then I joined FC Pune City. I played in the Hero ISL and got a chance to play with the national team, so they have been a very important part of my career. I want to say thanks to them, to their fans, management and staff because they gave me a brilliant start to my career.”

Looking ahead, Ashique is focused on his time with the Blues and described his move to Bengaluru as a ‘turning point’ and one which makes him ‘really happy’. “My move to Bengaluru FC is a turning point for me, especially because I have signed here for four years. I believe staying at a club for a long spell will be very good for my career. You get to build a bond with the club and players around you. Having an opportunity to play in such a professional club like Bengaluru FC makes me really happy.”

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