Kerala Blasters FC are placed 4th in the league table with 27 points (7 wins and 6 draws) in 16 matches. They are only a couple of points ahead of Mumbai City FC who have played the same number of matches. Kerala Blasters drew 2-2 against ATK Mohun Bagan in their last match. They took the lead twice but the Mariners came back to spoil their party. Ivan asserted that his players will continue to stay positive as they prepare to face a tough challenge against the table-toppers.
Hyderabad FC currently sits in 1st place in the standings with 32 points (9 wins and 5 draws) from 17 matches. They defeated FC Goa 3-1 in the previous game, last weekend. The Nizams are keeping their feet grounded despite his team performing exceedingly well recently, as they prepare for a stiff challenge against the Kerala Blasters FC on Wednesday at the GMC Athletic Stadium, Bambolim.
Ahead of Kerala Blasters’ match against Hyderabad FC, coach Ivan Vukomanovic and striker Chencho Gyeltshen addressed the media during the pre-match press conference. Below are the excerpts.
The game against Hyderabad FC is crucial, what are your expectations from the match?
“Well, it’s another day and another match. It’s a short competition where the games keep coming on. It’s another game on the schedule we have to play and another opponent. They are one of the best teams in the league. They are top of the table for a reason. They work with consistency and a process. They deserve to be on the top of the table.
“I am hoping we will be concentrated because against one of the best teams in the league you have to be concentrated for ninety-five minutes. We have to be focused, organised, and try to use their weak points. It’s a game with the stake every football player likes to play.”
Enes Sipovic came on as a substitute and conceded a last-minute goal against NorthEast United FC. The same thing happened in the last match against ATK Mohun Bagan. Do you think substituting Bijoy was a wrong decision?
“Well, we have to react in those moments with the substitution because our young defender Bijoy was suffering from cramps. So, we didn’t want to take risks because we need him till the end of the competition. And maybe towards the end, those circumstances would provoke the worst injury. It happens. Sipovic was in the box and maybe if he didn’t touch the ball, it would have gone centrally to Gill. We are still positive about those things and will continue to be.”
What has been the key to Blasters’ consistent run?
“The key to our current season has been hard work and mutual respect. The boys are working hard because they are hungry for improvement and consistency. We are very happy with the way the boys behave and work. There is a huge margin for improvement which we would like to explore in the next period. With the positive energy and mindset, we have managed to have a very good season so far. Hope we can continue and end up this season with a smile. Hope the fans are proud and happy with the team and results.”
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic halted Blasters’ momentum?
“Yes, I think the COVID outbreak destroyed the League and momentum of many teams. The competition will end soon and many teams deserve to be better ranked. COVID destroyed the possibility for training and that’s why many clubs suffer from injured players. I mentioned in one
interview just after New Year that many clubs will finish the season without the key players because of the ISL format plus COVID issues. That’s what we are witnessing around all the teams. Not one team will have full squads in the end. The feeling is that everybody is just waiting for the season to be done and get out of the bio-bubble.”
The last time Jorge Diaz was suspended, Luna played as a striker. Will you adopt the same formation?
“We are looking for a different type (of formation). Tomorrow we will try to explore some other things. And we will see and hope for the best. We have enough players with good quality who can be there on the pitch, so, as a coach, it makes me happy.”
Former Kerala Blasters player, Sandesh Jhingan, recently got embroiled in controversy after a video clip of him saying “I played a match with women” went viral over social media.
“After the game, there are emotions and reactions. There are things players might say and it goes viral and it may provoke a positive or a negative reaction. As a grown-up person, you should know how to use social media. Women’s football is one of the best things that has happened to football because it gives a possibility for equal rights. Everybody has the right to play football. Young, old, man, woman, anybody.”
Hormipam Ruivah is back in training, Rahul KP was on the bench for the last three games, although Nishu Kumar is deemed not fit enough for Wednesday’s tie in the absence of the suspended duo of Sandeep Singh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz.
“Tomorrow we will try to explore some other things and we will try to have a strong side. There are players who are missing due to injuries or suspensions. No problem. We have enough players with quality who can be there on the pitch. As a coach, it makes me happy.”
How do you keep the players’ morale high in these testing times?
“We do not impose any restrictions whatsoever. We have flexibility with many things. We don’t bother anybody with stupid details and trivial things. We are focused and disciplined during the training sessions and games. Besides that, we try to have fun as much as possible and smile during the day. Life in a bubble is not easy. There are many frustrations and that’s why we can see many unusual reactions during some games from all teams (players, coaching staff, referees). There is the feeling that even the people from (the) ISL want just to be over with the League and just let everybody go out of the bubble. We have a positive energy that allows us to have fun and joy throughout the process in the last months.”
What do you like most about this group of players?
“The joy and pleasure they have working together. I like the hunger they have for improvement. I like their dedication to the team and work. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with this group.”
Here are the excerpts from Chencho Gyeltshen’s press conference.
You have played with many Indian clubs so far. How do you explain your time at Kerala Blasters FC?
“I am playing in India for the fifth year. I am honored to have signed for Kerala Blasters. They have a huge fan base. I am getting a lot of support from the fans. I am very happy to play for the club.”
We are waiting for your first KBFC game, do you think it can happen tomorrow?
“You can expect it anytime, whenever I get on the pitch. Being a striker, my aim is to score goals. You can expect it anytime.”
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