Khabra Steps Down From Football
Former FC Edmonton and Atletico Ottawa midfielder Ajay Khabra is stepping away from the game to continue his education.
The 25-year-old University of Alberta graduate had previously stated that when his competitive playing days were over, he’d return a focus to further education. After thirty appearances as a professional footballer in the Canadian Premier League, the Edmonton local is now putting that plan into action.
Khabra becomes the latest of a string of CPL athletes on short term contracts to end his playing career early. This offseason has seen the likes of Luca Gasparotto, Dylan Carreiro, and Dean Northover also do so, with former CF Montreal and Halifax Wanderers goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu leaving the game to pursue an education, too.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in Ottawa. I’ve decided to move on from soccer and pursue my studies again. I decided it was time for that instead of actively reaching out [and] trying to sign for the other teams.Ajay Khabra
Prior to his time as a professional footballer, Khabra was a standout athlete in his hometown: he won a U-14 national championship with Edmonton Juventus prior to joining the FC Edmonton Academy. Enrolling with the University of Alberta, he went on to make 63 appearances for the Golden Bears between 2013 and 2017, winning the 2016 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship alongside the likes of former Eddies Bruno Zebie and Ajeej Sarkaria.
His time with the Golden Bears also saw him voted as the university side’s MVP while he simultaneously played for the Edmonton Green & Gold in the Alberta Major Soccer League.
In 2018, Khabra won the President’s Trophy from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science, recognizing him as an outstanding athlete, leader, and role model. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology, Khabra had even said back then that he’d like to play competitive soccer for as long as possible before returning for his master’s degree and becoming a sports therapist.
Khabra was handed his first professional contract by Jeff Paulus ahead of the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, with the midfielder earning 24 appearances in his rookie campaign. He showed good positional awareness and a solid acumen for retaining possession, with Khabra departing FC Edmonton to become the fourth-ever signing for Atletico Ottawa last year. At The Island Games, he appeared in all but one match for the expansion side.
His final match came in Atletico Ottawa’s 2-0 loss to the Halifax Wanderers, with the expansion side having come one result away from securing a postseason position in its first-ever year.
Now that he’s left the professional game behind, the University of Alberta graduate has enrolled in further online courses with the goal of kickstarting a career in physiotherapy.
Khabra’s early retirement makes him the the fourth inaugural Atletico Ottawa roster member to depart, with standout midfielder Francisco Acuna having signed for Liga MX side Club Necaxa and Canadians Maksym Kowal and Ricky Gomes also having moved on.
We wish Ajay all the best in his next chapter.
Header Image Credit: Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography