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Cobblers defender meets former team-mate

1 June 2018

When former Leicester striker Iain Hume suffered a horrendous head injury which nearly ended his career - and his life - back in 2008, few would have imagined that he would still be playing a decade later.

Even fewer would have pictured the now 34-year-old banging in the goals in front of 50,000 fans in India. It's been quite a journey from suffering a long-term head injury to playing with Bulgarian superstar and former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov.

Some things don't change though, Hume is currently recovering from an innocuous challenge which resulted in the striker tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee.

"It's hard," he says.

"It's my first serious injury apart from my head in 18 years as a pro, so it was always going to be hard to accept. Being away from home obviously made it a little bit harder at first. But with the medical team at the club and their attention to detail, I'm a bit ahead of schedule and looking forward to the challenge ahead."

If there is one person who has the determination and mindset to overcome this kind of challenge, then the Canada international is your man. The head injury he sustained 10 years ago was horrendous.

Hume was left with a huge wound which needed 42 staples in it and resulted in minor memory loss for a few months, as well as numbness for 12-18 months. Surgeons and medical specialists thought he may never play again, but he proved them wrong by stepping back on to a football pitch just eight months later. Nine-and-a-half years on he is still going strong. 

Hume won't be short of fans when he does make his latest return for Kerala Blasters. Based in Kochi, a city with a population bigger than Glasgow, the Blasters are regularly watched by crowds of 50,000 or more.

"I've been very fortunate," Hume says. "Kerala and Kolkata are the two biggest football loving states in India, so the atmospheres at our games are incredible. Kerala Blasters have the third or fourth highest average attendance outside of the major European leagues. Over the first three seasons they have been getting approximately 45-50,000.

"It's still years away from the established support that clubs around the world may have. But for a league that is still essentially a baby, it's continually improving."

Hume has been part of the Indian Super League since its creation in 2014. He joined Kerala Blasters FC in his first season and had a very good campaign. His team made the finals but lost to an injury time goal. Hume scored five goals and was named the 'Hero of the League' (POTY) and Golden Boot Runner Up for that season.

He then joined Atletico de Kolkata for the second and third season where he enjoyed his most successful run. Kolkata made the semi-finals in his first year and won the tournament in his second. He was runner-up for the Golden Boot again for both years scoring 11 and seven goals respectively. His achievements so far in India are unprecedented, having been named in the team of the season and in the final three for ‘Hero of the ISL’ for the first three competitions.

He puts his success on a new continent down to having an open mind after leaving English football.

"I've never had a problem settling in," he said.

"I think one of the main reasons I've been pretty successful out here in India is because I came out with an open mind and was accepting that things weren't always going to be perfect. Quite a few guys have come out here from the UK and Europe, thinking it's an easy pay day and they would walk it. Subsequently they struggled and even in some cases, went back home mid-season.

"The food is what it is. We live in 5* hotels, so there is always a variety of foods available to cater our needs. I'm quite fortunate to have made friends outside of football over here, so if I’m not with my teammates at the pool or chilling in our rooms, I'm able to get away and switch off from the game for a while.

"It's a lot different to the UK, but it's a deceptive league. Players are very athletic and technically good. At the beginning, tactical awareness was a problem, but it has taken great strides over such a short space of time. "

Hume has seen the infrastructures of clubs in the ISL improve in his time, with FIFA’s decision to host the Under-17 World Cup there last year bringing facilities up to scratch around the league:

"Over the coming years, all clubs are aiming to have grassroots academies and personal training grounds established for the progression of the sport in the future," Hume says. Maybe we'll see India in a World Cup sooner rather than later.

One factor of playing in India which players can't get away from is the scale of the country - Kerala must face teams in Delhi and Assam - journeys of 1600 and 2100 miles respectively. It puts Carlisle to Exeter (347m) in perspective!

"Ha ha, it's a pretty big country, yeah," Hume laughs.

"Every trip is by plane, but some of the cities don't have direct flights, so some are a little bit longer travel than others. Then of course you have to fight with Indian traffic. The major cities are all like the M25."

Every professional footballer must start preparing for the next stages of their life, and even though Hume might still have a few miles left in the tank, he has already got the ball rolling with his regards to getting his coaching badges.

“Although I’m 34 now, even with this long-term injury, I still see myself playing for another two or three years. I’m already looking into completing my coaching badges, so who knows what doors could open?” he said.

For now, Hume’s concentration is on his rehabilitation and exploring the sights and culture of India even further.

He stressed. “Like every country, some places have problems, but I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited.

“If you come out and visit with an open mind, I guarantee you will absolutely love it”. 

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