The new Yellow Army custodian spoke about his journey so far and ambitions with his new club.

Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters signed Albino Gomes as their first new addition ahead of the upcoming season. On Friday, the goalkeeper spoke to the fans of his new club for the first time, as assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed welcomed him to the team via the Blasters’ official Instagram account. In the 30-minute long candid chat between the duo, Gomes opened up on a host of topics, including his recovery from recent injuries and his targets ahead of the upcoming 2020-21 season.

He began the chat by saying that it has always been a dream for him to be a part of the Yellow Army. “I always wanted to come to Kerala and play for the Blasters. The state has a lot of passion for football, which makes it a very good place to play the game,” he said.

Only a few years ago, the 26-year-old was one of the most sought-after goalkeepers in the country. After making quite an impact with Salgaocar and Mumbai City FC, he joined Aizawl FC in 2016-17 and that turned out to be the move that shot him to nationwide recognition. Aizawl became I-League champions that year and Albino’s efforts between the sticks played an important role in a championship race that was ultimately decided by a margin of one point.

He subsequently joined Delhi Dynamos and became their first-choice custodian, before sustaining a season-ending injury during a clash against Jamshedpur FC. Although, he returned to the team next term, but was no longer a part of the coach’s plans and started working to regain his place in the starting XI. But, disaster struck twice as another injury in the pre-season kept him on the sidelines throughout Odisha FC’s 2019-20 campaign.

Although, the shot-stopper regrets the opportunities he lost because of his injuries, he has now recovered from them and is ready to be back in action on the pitch. “It was really sad and unfortunate to lose two back-to-back seasons due to the injury. However, I stayed strong and believed in myself. Now, I’m getting stronger day-by-day. I have also started practising and I am sure I’ll return to my best form soon,” he said.

Albino Gomes also stressed on the importance of mental fitness, saying, “When you get injured, it is important to remain mentally strong. If your mind is not prepared for what you have to do to achieve things, it becomes very difficult. Once you suffer an injury and think that your career is over, you may not be able to return to the pitch. So, believe in yourself and work hard.”

He further recollected that he was once on the radar of the Indian national team and even made it to the squad in a couple of matches. Although, injuries caused him to fall out of favour with the Blue Tigers, he is not yet ready to give up on his hopes of representing the nation on the international stage one day.

“Wearing the national team jersey and representing India is still one of my biggest dreams, just like it is the dream of everyone else playing football in the country. But, it is a long process. Before I get there, I have to play a lot of games for Kerala Blasters,” he underscored, before adding that he has also set a few objectives for himself at his new club. “I need to win the ISL trophy with the Blasters. The club has a rich history and I need to be a part of it as well. I want to keep at least 8-10 clean sheets.”

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The 26-year-old then revealed that he has completed his first one-on-one interaction with Kibu Vicuna, the new head coach of the Kochi outfit. “Coach Kibu has a vision and a playing style in his mind and he also knows how to convey what he wants from the players. As players, we have been able to understand his plans well, so if we are able to execute them correctly, then we are likely to be very successful next season,” Albino Gomes assured the fans.

Ishfaq Ahmed then proceeded to ask about the player’s role-models, to which he responded with the name of Subrata Paul. “Subrata Paul is my biggest inspiration. I had a lot of opportunities to work alongside him. His work-ethic is impressive and that has pushed me to strive hard as well,” he asserted.

The goalkeeper also stated that winning the I-League with Aizawl FC was one of the most special moments of his career till date. “When we started the season that year, we did not know that we would win the trophy, but as the season progressed we started to have more confidence in ourselves.”

Expressing hope that he would soon be able to put his injury-laden past behind him and return to the forefront of Indian football, Albino Gomes concluded his first-ever interview as a Blasters player. “At Kerala Blasters, I want to re-build myself as I haven’t played much football in the past couple of years. I hope to work hard and do well next season,” he signed off.

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