'Playing in front of KBFC fans at Kochi will be one of the highlights of my career': Khabra
Representing a club with a huge fan base comes with big expectations and Harmanjot Khabra surely knows a thing or two. Khabra has been around since the inception of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) during which he has turned out for two Hero ISL sides with one of the most passionate fan bases in the league - Chennaiyin FC (2014-17) and Bengaluru FC (2017-21).
He has now initiated a new chapter in his career – this time with Kerala Blasters FC, who are not only vociferous in their support but arguably the biggest fan base in the league by numbers. The veteran is now looking to put on a show for the fans ahead of Hero ISL 2021-22.
The 32-year-old spoke to the indiansuperleague.com about his decision to pursue a fresh challenge, his message to the Kerala Blasters fans and more.
This will be the second straight Hero ISL season which will be conducted without the presence of fans due to COVID19 restrictions. But once things get back to normal, Khabra expressed he would not be able to control his excitement of playing in front of the Kerala Blasters fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
“The Manjappada are truly amazing. The amount of support they've given me since the day I've come here has been fantastic. It's very unfortunate that we won't have them around us this year. But I'm looking forward to lacing up my boots at the JN Stadium, Kochi in the near future. It will definitely be one of my best career highlights, as and when they chant my name in our actual home,” he said.
The two-time Hero ISL champion has decided to pursue a new opportunity in his club career after spending four years at Bengaluru FC. Leaving the Blues was a difficult decision to make but now Khabra is looking forward to representing KBFC.
“It's a fresh challenge. I enjoyed my time in Bengaluru and now I decided it was time to write the next chapter in my journey. And the preparation for the season ahead has been perfect, we've gelled in as a squad and we're keen on giving our best,” he revealed.
Having played in the Southern Derby, the fixture between Bengaluru and Kerala Blasters - one of the most anticipated rivalries in the Hero ISL - Khabra revealed the challenge that comes with playing big matches. This time around, he will be squaring off against familiar faces.
“These are the clashes that make the league what it is. It always had a special flavour to it,” he said on the Southern Derby.
“I am definitely looking forward to squaring up with my old colleagues and friends. We will definitely enjoy the game and I expect both sides to go all out.”
As one of the senior players in their squad, Khabra comes with heaps of experience, having played multiple roles in midfield and defense during his ISL career. While it’s not yet clear where KBFC coach Ivan Vukomanovic plans to use Khabra in his system, the Punjab-born player mentioned he also was looking to help the youngsters in the squad.
“I've always been a coach's player. So the versatility will obviously come along. But what I add to the team more than anything is my desire to give 110% in any area that the coach wants me to. And my experience in Indian football will definitely be a positive as it will help me mentor the youngsters in the dressing room,” the two-time Hero ISL winner stated.
After finishing 10th in the Hero ISL 2020-21 table, KBFC, under Vukomanovic, eyes to bounce back. The two-time finalists haven’t made the semi-finals since 2016, and it has been a long wait, however, Khabra said the club will put up a fight.
“The mood in the camp is very positive. There is a nice mix of younger and experienced players and the coach is very vocal about what he demands from us. We will definitely put up a fight, every time we take the pitch,” he added.
“We will give everything there is and more, in every game we play. This season is very important for us as a squad and we have the spirit to fight. Fight for the fans, for each other and the coach.”
The Kochi-based side will open their campaign on November 19th against ATK Mohun Bagan FC. New signing Khabra will hope to play a big part in their season as Kerala Blasters chase their first title.