Iain Hume is a long time Canadian international player and current member of Atlético de Kolkata of the Indian Super League. A 16 year vetern at only 32, Hume spent six seasons in the English Championship, where he played for Leicester City, Barnsley and Preston North End, and another 10 between England’s League 1 and League 2. In 2014, Hume took a chance and joined the Kerala Blasters of the newly formed Indian Super League. After an MVP season in 2014, a national team call up and a short return to England, Hume is back in India for the ISL’s second season. We spoke with Mr. Hume via email about soccer in India, the generational change with the Canadian men’s team and things a possible Canadian league could take from from the ISL.
SSPC: What made you decide to join the Indian Super League back in 2014?
IH: To be honest, it was pretty much a spur of the moment decision. I was in between clubs in England and not sure where I would be playing my trade for the season! I got approached asking if I would be interested and wanted to hear them out. Next thing I knew, all things were agreed and my name was inserted to the list of foreign players for the upcoming draft. On top of it all, I was 30 yrs old and if I’m honest, I was ready for a new adventure after 15 years in England.
SSPC: The league has developed a kind of wild reputation with the marquee players, a short season, Bollywood ownership and large fanbase. How do you find atmosphere surrounding the league and the quality of play?
IH: Yeah it was kind of surreal. There was players in the league that I’d only ever dreamed of playing against. Brushing shoulders with Del Piero, Nesta, Trezeguet, Pires, Capdevilla etc. was definitely worth entering the unknown for me. As for the atmosphere…. I landed on my feet last season at Kerala, an average attendance of about 50,000 people was unreal to be involved in. They are football mad out here, and a big reason in me coming back again this season.
SSPC: Were you worried about joining the league?
IH: I was worried, yeah! I had spent 15 years in England, it’s home. Leaving my wife & kids for 4 months and moving to a country that most had never heard about in the footballing world was extremely daunting at the time. But in all honesty, ecstatic that I took the chance!
SSPC: In regards to the season length there has been some criticism. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is it too little?
IH: The length of the season is always gonna be under scrutiny because it doesn’t allow players to truly settle in. Especially for those with a family and moving abroad and whatnot. The ISL has been started, to raise awareness to a football showcase, not solely to viewers abroad, but also around India itself to try and help improve the overall infrastructures, but also the enjoyment of the game. The long standing domestic league (Hero I-League) doesn’t get anywhere near the same media coverage (or financial backing for that matter) as the ISL does.
But the dilemma continues over here as to whether the 2 leagues will eventually combine to make 1 or 2 leagues with possibly the promotion/relegation aspect involved, or whether the ISL will completely take over? But I think for the short term, the ISL has helped to improve the approach to football on all fronts in India. I genuinely do think it will be very beneficial for the future of Indian football if the dreams/goals that were originally set by those involved are met or surpassed.
SSPC: You also caused a bit of fan outcry with your move from the Kerala to rivals Kolkata. What caused the move?
IH: Well that’s part of football unfortunately. Players change teams quite often throughout their careers. This was kind of a forced hand though to be fair. Negotiations were ongoing for some time with Kerala after the New Year, but after seemingly coming to an agreement, something changed and I was made available to speak to other ISL teams. After that was made public knowledge, within a day or two, ATK were on the phone asking my intentions for the next season and if I wanted to return to the ISL? It was an easy decision after that conversation I had with them, cause at the end of the day, when the team that had just won the trophy comes knocking, you take the interest very seriously. Truth be told, I was pretty much sold before I put the phone down.
SSPC: Since Floro took over the Canadian national team, we’ve seen a generational shift to the roster. What’s it like being part of the outgoing generation?
IH: It’s been a massive turn around since Benito’s taken over, the most positive thing for me is that he’s had a say in all levels of the game in the Men’s program. This is very important for the younger guys coming through, that it’s not a big change from coaching styles and philosophies if/when they make the step in to the full side! As far as being a part of the outgoing generation, it’s still an aim of mine to be involved. Even though it’s not been very often of late, I’m still making sure I’m fit and ready to go if/when I’m called upon. It’s a massive honour to pull on the red shirt, and I’ve been fortunate over the years to play with the best players the country has ever produced. Hopefully, that chapter isn’t closed just yet!
SSPC: There’s been much speculation about a possible Canadian professional soccer league starting up in 2017. What lessons do you feel a Canada Soccer Association could take from the ISL in regards to launching a league?
IH: I think it could be a positive thing for Canadian Soccer if this comes about, but it has to be organised and and backed from all angles. The infrastructure has to be arranged and implemented from the get go ie. Training facilities, grassroots training etc. Also, dependent on what sort of level they want the league to reach, there is gonna have to be major financial backing to attract the required quality of players & coaches.
The one thing about the ISL and the way they’ve approached the league, is although they want instant success/awareness of the league, they’ve also invested a lot of time & money into the future of the sport out here. Fingers crossed, the vision of those looking at starting a Canadian league, have the future of it in mind and not just to be a flash in the pan league!