Over the years, several players have earned the admiration and respect of the Blasters.
Recently, Khel Now did an article on how Indian Super League (ISL) clubs are identical to certain European clubs in some aspects. In the article, Kerala Blasters had been compared to Newcastle United, as the fans are their biggest assets. It is a very valid argument because in the seven years of their existence, the Yellow Army haven’t earned much apart from the unconditional love of the fans.
The club reached the final twice in the first three seasons of the league, but things changed soon after. In the four campaigns since, they haven’t finished in the top half of the table even once. In the recently-concluded 2020-21 edition of the competition, the team from Kochi finished in tenth place, just one position above bottom-placed Odisha FC. To add insult to injury, they have also been subject to a constant change of coaches and players – and today, the side lack an identity of their own.
Regardless of all this, several brilliant players have represented Kerala Blasters over the years. The likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Wes Brown, David James, Iain Hume and others plied their trade at the club at various points of time, while others like Halicharan Narzary, Jackichand Singh, Sandesh Jhingan and so on also left their mark at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Some of these names are remembered fondly by fans even today. On that note, Khel Now takes a look at the five all-time fan-favourites at Kerala Blasters:
5. Sandesh Jhingan
We begin the list with a controversial name. After his switch to ATK Mohun Bagan last summer, several Kerala Blasters fans turned against the defender. Despite this, the fact remains that he is someone who has been given the status of a ‘legend’ by the club who also retired his iconic No.21 jersey.
Jhingan joined the Yellow Army ahead of the inaugural edition of the ISL in 2014 and was a part of the outfit for six years. He did not play in the 2019-20 season due to a long-term injury, but in the five seasons before that, he made 76 league appearances for the team. The 27-year-old also notched four assists during this period.
The centre-back was a relatively new figure at the top level of Indian football when the ISL began, but he ended up winning the ‘Emerging Player’ award in the first season of the league. The Blasters played an important role in transforming him into the marauding defender that he is today.
4. Sahal Abdul Samad
The current poster-boy of Kerala Blasters, Sahal Abdul Samad’s rise has been iconic – so much so that he has an equal number of detractors outside the club as there are fans who adore him. He joined the side in 2017 and rose rapidly through their reserves team. He clocked just 22 minutes in ISL 2017-18, but what followed for the midfielder was a breakthrough campaign. Sahal ended up winning the league’s and AIFF’s ‘Emerging Player’ awards that year, which also led to a national team call-up.
However, the 2019-20 season was a quiet one for the 24-year-old who made most of his appearances from the bench. Later, under Kibu Vicuna, his status as a first-choice starter was restored. Eventually, Sahal ended his ISL 2020-21 campaign as one of the best performers for Kerala Blasters, in what was otherwise a very underwhelming season for the Kochi-based club. Overall, he has made 51 appearances for the team, registering one goal and five assists so far.
Sahal’s abilities are often criticized by fans of rival teams, but Blasters loyalists are quick to defend him every time. In all fairness, the midfielder’s recent performances prove that he deserves more appreciation from rival fans.
3. Cedric Hengbart
Hengbart is one of the best-ever defenders that Kerala Blasters have had to-date. His positioning, game reading, passing range and pace made him a handful for most opposition teams. He played for the Yellow Army in 2014 and 2016 – and those remain the only seasons when the Blasters qualified for the playoffs! He also plied his trade for NorthEast United in 2015.
Overall, the 40-year-old made 42 appearances in the ISL, 30 of which came for the Yellow Army. He also scored once and assisted four times for them, which is impressive for a centre-back. It has been five years since his last league match, but fans have not lost their love for him – as evident from the comments’ section on his social media posts.
2. Josu Prieto Currais
Josu was only 22-23-years-old when he played for Kerala Blasters in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He is still only 28 and judging by how the hashtags #BringBackJosu and #ComeBackJosu trend in the state during the transfer window, fans have not had enough of him yet.
If you are a fan of the Yellow Army, you would not have forgotten this goal that the La Masia academy product scored against NorthEast United in his first season in India. The screamer gave Josu a cult status at the club and it is very easy to forget that he made just 25 ISL appearances for them in two years. Apart from the above goal, the Spaniard also notched six assists, three of which came in the 2016 season where the team reached the final.
As in Hengbart’s case, Josu also has a massive fan-following on social media. Most of them are KBFC fans and they often make their presence felt on his timeline with wishes, kind comments and requests for him to return to the club.
1. Iain Hume
The most important name among them all. Iain Hume played for 11 different clubs in his career, including three in the ISL alone and former Premier League winners Leicester City. Despite this, it is safe to say that no team’s fans have given him so much attention and love as Kerala Blasters.
Fondly known as ‘Hume-ettan’ (Malayalam for ‘brother Hume’), the 37-year-old made 25 appearances for the Yellow Army, scoring nine times and also providing two assists. He is also the first player to net a hat-trick in KBFC colours.
After joining the side ahead of ISL 2014, it broke many fans’ hearts to see him leave for ATK FC the following year. But he returned to the Kochi outfit in 2017 and played a crucial role in their attack in the season that followed.