Ivan Vukomanovic – The Durand Cup is an extra bonus for the players to participate and play some extra games


Kerala Blasters FC manager Ivan Vukomanovic spoke to the media ahead of their game against fellow ISL outfit Bengaluru FC in the Durand Cup.

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Ivan Vukomanovic

The Yellow Army kicked off their Durand campaign with a win over the Indian Navy at the Salt Lake Stadium, courtesy of a well-taken penalty by the Uruguayan Adrián Luna.

During the briefing, the boss spoke about injuries, the facilities provided for the Durand Cup, Luna operating as a striker, and Prasanth K’s potential, who also joined him for the press conference.

Ivan Vukomanovic on Kerala Blasters’ win in their first game in the Durand Cup

“We are pleased because of the first victory. Of course, it gave us important basics for the continuation of the Durand Cup. Tomorrow’s game against Bengaluru FC we see as a process, as a period of our preseason preparation. We would like to divide some playing minutes to some other players as well.”

On the weather conditions in Kolkata and how it affects tomorrow’s game

“It’s been 24 hours that rain didn’t stop. Actually, we don’t know if the games will take place today and tomorrow. I think we will not be able to go out to train today because everything is underwater. At this moment we are not that busy or occupied with the result because we are during a period where we have to take care of players and their preparation and first of all to avoid injuries because these things are not how we planned and we are not happy about it.

“Tomorrow we’ll see how we’ll play. Still, with two games to go, you know, neither we nor Bengaluru will look tomorrow like we would in ISL. So our main goal is that everybody gets ready, everybody gets playing minutes and we’ll take tomorrow’s game as a part of the preseason and hope for the best. Hopefully without injuries.”

On updates on injuries to Abdul Hakku and Sahal Abdul Samad

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Sahal Abdul Samad

“On Abdul Hakku, we are sorry about his injury. Actually, it was not planned, you know, and these games are coming in a period when we are trying to accumulate playing minutes. I think that Abdul Hakku will not be with us for the next 7-10 days for sure. It will be very difficult for him to play tomorrow and the next game, so he’s out.”

“If we speak about Sahal, he just started training with us yesterday so tomorrow it will also be difficult for him but we’ll see. Like I said, taking care of everybody, certainly not pushing any player in these circumstances underwater. It is a difficult field to play in and the injuries are even worse. So our goal is to keep all of them healthy in the long term. We will give some other players playing time.”

On the club’s sixth foreign signing

“This week I think everything will be settled. With administration and visa, Vasquez and Diaz will come by the end of this week. The sixth foreigner will also be announced and probably coming till the end of this week. Hopefully, our squad will be complete by the end of the Durand Cup.”

On how the facilities affect the preseason of the squad

“Actually, it does affect a lot. In Kochi, we were trying to start slowly, have one training session every day, trying to increase certain things on the fitness level. After 2-3 weeks, all players were recovering better, playing better, training better. That’s why we started earlier. The Durand Cup arrived at a very important part of our preseason.”

“Now, the program we had prepared earlier, we had to modify. If we speak about the facilities and weather, in our job, we always have to adapt and modify day by day. So, now, we have to put that program to the side. We understand that it’s not easy to organize a tournament with 16 teams and organize all the training sessions for all the teams. Sometimes you suffer, like, from the organization you get time to train at 8 o’clock in the morning which is not normal. Today we wanted to do a few tactical training sessions but you are not allowed to go out because everything is underwater. We are not complaining. We are trying to do the best and get the best out of it.”

On how the new signings have settled in

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Chencho Gyeltshen

“If you speak about new signings, at the moment we only have 3 of them with us. Sipović, who has already been in India for a year, and for him to adapt, it’s nothing. So he’s already good with everything. If you speak about Luna, he also arrived on time in Kochi, so he is also improving his fitness level. He will probably still not be able to play 90 minutes because he is still not in that moment. Chencho just arrived after such a long break.”

“We will have to take care of his performance and make sure not to, how we say, throw him to the lions sooner than needed. For the other foreigners, I don’t know, we will have to check their fitness levels when they arrive. We are still waiting to complete our squad. Luna and Sipović played in the last game. Chencho, it will be difficult for him to play because he just arrived. I am not too worried about the foreigners, they are professionals and they will be able to adapt when they arrive.”

On Kerala Blasters’ rivalry with Bengaluru FC

“Well, I think tomorrow’s game will not be that kind of game because neither we nor Bengaluru are in the moment like we will be in the ISL. Neither team will show the face that you will see in the ISL. Neither team is in a preseason period when they are 100% ready, so I think both the teams are just careful about not getting injuries and going through this tournament and having this opportunity to play. We don’t see this game as the kind of derby game which will be in ISL so tomorrow’s game is part of the tournament, so we will try to play a good game, to try to prepare and see what we have.”

On the team’s vaccination and other medical guidelines

“All the members of the technical and medical staff and all the players are vaccinated. Still, there are many restrictions and regulations around the Durand Cup. A day before the game we have to be tested, with a PCR test. There are many restrictions inside the stadium, inside the training room, about warming up, when you can go out when you cannot go out, what you have to do, and many unlogical things around all the organization but we understand.”

“With the current situation and circumstances, we accept it. As a professional, we are used to spending time in hotels, in airports, traveling, playing, it’s life in professional sports. It doesn’t change whether we are in India or any other part of the world. We try to be capable to adapt to any kind of situation and build a positive atmosphere.”

On pressure to win the Durand Cup

“I don’t believe there is any pressure in football. Pressure in football is just the hype that is created around one certain club or community. The players must know that pressure in football is a kind of motivation to be better, to become better than the version you were yesterday. In football, as a player, you do something you love.”

“Pressure is when you work at something you don’t like. You have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, you have to provide food for your family, you have to do something which is not good for you and still not has food or money for your family. That is pressure. Pressure in football doesn’t exist. It’s a job, a pleasure. As footballers, we have to be grateful. We can do something nice, it’s a game, and we have to do it with a smile. So we don’t have any pressure.”

On injuries and timing of the Durand Cup

If you speak about the timing of the tournament, seeing the length and the period of the ISL league is to be held, I think the perfect period for the tournament will be after the ISL actually. When we are in a period of preparation and not one squad is completed, it’s not ideal. Not one club can participate and play on their 100% level. So now we need to be alert about injuries and how to stay fit, play normal games, and just let this time pass as a preparation period. So, I think that the timing is bad, but we adapt and try to divide the playing time and allow players to enjoy and have fun to participate in this tournament.

On Luna playing as a striker

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Adrián Luna

As I said, we are in a part of the season with many modifications, and even now we don’t have natural strikers. So we just try to modify and field some players in certain spots where they will not play in the future. The Durand Cup, as I said, arrived at a time that is not too ideal for preparation as our squad is yet not complete and we cannot compete on 100%. So, Luna, we pushed a little bit front to play more offensive. Even he is not ready to play 90 minutes. Chencho has just had two training sessions with us after four months break. He is still not able to play at that level. After Hakku’s injury, we modified, now we will play our group games and see if we qualify. If we don’t, then we go to Goa.

On Prasanth Karuthadathkuni’s potential

“I think he is a good player. Both of us know he can play better. In your football career, you can become better. Every year, every season. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you are seventeen or eighteen years old or if you are thirty or thirty-one or above. In any period of your life as a football player, you can improve a lot. Sometimes when you come across the right coaching staff, you improve and I think Prasanth has the potential to improve a lot.”

“He will have to stay healthy and keep working hard. Not only him but all of us at Kerala Blasters, you know, we finished last season second to bottom. We have to stay calm. We have to stay humble. We have to stay modest. We don’t have to announce in big words, because we were second to last. We have to train hard, keep improving, and try to become a better team in the next ISL. So, I think Prashanth and many others have the potential to become better this season, make many assists, and score goals. Later, I will tell him something else! (laughs).”

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