Exclusive Interview with Kibu Vicuna
“If you play on possession, you don’t have to defend, because there’s only one ball.” Famously said by Johan Cruijff and something which Indian Football witnessed last season.
The attacking brand of football played by Kibu Vicuna’s Mohun Bagan raised eyebrows of many football fans especially after the game against Churchill Brothers on 8th December. Their resurgence started from that day itself as they didn’t lose a single game after that match. They had 39 points from 13 games with a mammoth goal difference of 22. Mohun Bagan celebrated their second I League title under Kibu Vicuna after the game against Aizawl FC.
Appointment of new sporting director saw Kerala Blasters making some big moves towards restructuring the squad and coaching staff. Sacking of Eelco Schattorie was a big shock for many Kerala Blasters fans. But the appointment of Kibu Vicuna reignited the hopes of Kerala Blasters fans.
Kibu Vicuna had to part ways with Mohun Bagan as the merged entity opted for Antonio Habas. Kerala Blasters didn’t waste time and appointed Kibu Vicuna as their new head coach. Kibu Vicuna opens up about the move :
“I was in touch with Kerala Blasters since the completion of ISL Season 6. The KBFC management shared a very clear vision, that the entire team, right from the top is invested to achieve. From the very start, I felt comfortable interacting with everyone at the club. Hence, the decision to join KBFC was quite an easy one. Moreover, I’m extremely delighted to have chosen a club that holds fans at the heart of all decision making and is very inclusive to their voices.”
Mohun Bagan kept high percentage of possession throughout the season. Similarly, Eelco’s Kerala Blasters played possession based football but they failed to convert chances into goals. Here’s what Kibu said after he analyzed Kerala Blasters and what went wrong for them.
“I watched all matches of the first team from last season. The team had a higher possession in most of the games and created a lot of chances as well. On-field performance is the result of multiple factors, which I may not be able to comment on, since I wasn’t a part of the club. Overall, they played a good game of football. Going forward, my aim is to thoroughly analyse the squad and prepare a competent team that is capable of achieving the goals of the club.”
Kibu Vicuna faced criticism initially after poor performances in CFL and first few matches of I League but the team recuperated and left no stones unturned. “At the start of the League, we were very well prepared as a team. However, the first two matches saw poor results. Although it was a tough start, we believed in our style of play, in creating possibilities and the right mindset to move strongly ahead. Results followed soon after.”, said Kibu Vicuna about the turnaround at Mohun Bagan.
As always, Kerala Blasters have been one of the most active club in the transfer market. Here’s how Kibu and the management are revamping the squad :
“My plan for the next season is to build a pro-active and offensive team that plays from the goal keeper and pressures the opponent to recover the ball as soon as possible. In-short, a team that gives their 100% in every game to achieve the objectives of the club. Although, we are currently going through times of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recruitment team is trying their best to put together a good squad for the season.”
Kibu Vicuna and his staff aren’t wasting time during pandemic and are conducting online sessions with the players. Kibu then went on to explain about the sessions which are being conducted by the coaching staff.
“A lot of our preseason and training plans are dependent on how soon the situation goes back to normalcy. However, as professional coaches, we must be ready to handle such situations and make the best use of available resources. We haven’t wasted any time, using digital assets, I have been constantly interacting with the players, conducting team meetings and one on one sessions. Weekly sessions are also organized with players, support staff and the administrative team to encourage trust and a better bonding among team mates. Our message to everyone is to stay home and stay safe, while also keeping healthy and fit for the upcoming games.”
Kerala Blasters have exemplary youth system and are Kerala Premier League champions. Kibu Vicuna ensured that Young players will get their opportunities in the main team. “Kerala Blasters FC has always given young players a chance to prove their worth. We will surely consider players from the KBFC academy. However, our key word will be quality. I faced a similar situation in Mohun Bagan last season, wherein we got six players from the academy for our Pre-season in Goa. Four of them stayed with us, the whole season and 3 of them got a lot of game time during the I-League matches.”
Kibu Vicuna doesn’t seem to be much happy about the recently introduced restrictions towards adding players from junior teams during mid-season. He says, “The rules are the same for all teams, hence, we’ll definitely follow them from our end as well. However, this needs to be analysed on a case to case basis-depending on the match situations and individual player conditions. Will then take a call, if required.”
Kerala Blasters is known for changing their coaches’ mid-season, with 9 changes coming in just 6 seasons. Kerala Blasters have one of the biggest fan base in India. Definitely there’s added pressure on the shoulders of the coach. Here’s how Kibu Vicuna hopes to deal with it :
“Pressure is always a part of professional football and as a coach, it is important for me to handle them with ease. Yes, the expectations will surely be high. However my plans for Kerala Blasters are very well defined – showcase a good game of football, aim for the best position in the league and enjoy a good season overall.”
“The new policy will ensure more game time to the Indian players, which is beneficial for the National team coaches, since they will have more options to choose from. However foreign players bring in a different skill set and competitiveness that will help domestic players learn and grow. So, any change has two sides to it, but overall, we are in line with the vision of the AFC.” Kibu Vicuna gave his opinion on the 3+1 rule implementation in Indian Football.
Kibu Vicuna rates Sahal Abdul Samad very highly even after the star midfielder failed to get much playing time last season. “I wouldn’t be able to comment on last season, since, I wasn’t a part of it. However, Sahal is a very creative player, who will be an important asset to the team for the upcoming season. Our aim is to try and push his limits to achieve the best of his talents for himself and the club.”
“I think Indian football is on a growth path. Improving academies, should definitely be one of the focus points. However, with all clubs doing so well, we hope the level of Indian football surpasses those in other Asian countries soon.” Said hopeful Kibu Vicuna when asked about best and worst points of Indian Football.
“Kerala has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country. They are our 12th player in the team. Their support and enthusiasm off the field, plays a major role in motivating the players to achieve greater heights. Although the current circumstances, may not allow fans to be present at the stadium, we are working closely with them to brainstorm on how their support can be showcased during the games.” Concluded Kibu Vicuna.
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