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Indian Super League 2018/19: Kerala Blasters hope to go all the way

Kerala Blasters, who finished sixth last season, will open their season against familiar foes ATK in Kolkata on September 29, 2018.

Written by Natasha Singh | New Delhi | Updated: September 28, 2018 3:15:11 pm
Kerala Blasters during the ISL pre-season Kerala Blasters (KBFC) during the pre-season. (Source: Kerala Blasters Instagram)

Two-time Indian Super League (ISL) runners-up Kerala Blasters will be looking forward to the new season in hope of turning the tables and their misfortune in their four years of playing in the Indian Super League.

When the Yellow Army began their campaign in the ISL back in 2014 under former England player David James, the club reached the final in their first attempt where they lost 1-0 to Atletico de Kolkata. Such is their misfortune that even though the team made it to the final two years later, they against lost to the same opponents, this time through penalties.

Even though this has been a good performance for Kochi-based side as compared to other ISL clubs in the four seasons, there will be added pressure on the team, considering their massive fan base which would expect them to step up in the fifth season. The Yellow Army have held the record for highest league attendance every season and expect that trend to continue in the fifth season of the ISL.

However, it has not been a very positive pre-season for the two-time runners up as they took on Melbourne City and Girona FC at the La Liga World tournament in Thailand, losing 6-0 and 5-0 respectively. They, however, put up a good show against Bangkok University, defeating the local team 4-1.

One of the biggest setbacks for the club as well as the fans in the pre-season has been Sachin Tendulkar ending his association with the ISL club with new stakeholders coming in. The very name of the club Kerala Blasters is a tribute to the cricket legend, who is also called ‘The Master Blaster’.

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In a statement, Tendulkar had said, “Over the last four years, Kerala Blasters Football Club has been an integral part of my life. I have undergone all the emotions that millions of Kerala Blasters fans have undergone during this period. My association with Kerala Blasters was driven with the intent to reignite the passion for the game and give the many fans and the abundant talent in Kerala, a national platform to express themselves. It has been a thrilling experience to chase this pursuit and something which I will always cherish.”

Kerala Blasters has usually gone for big names in their signings and James wanted to change that this year. The club roped in the likes of Seiminlen Doungel, Halicharan Narzary, Anas Edathodika and U-17 World Cup star Dheeraj Singh to strengthen their squad.

Speaking on the new additions to the team, James, who was awarded a three-year contract by the club, said, “Our recruitment wasn’t about bringing in finished players. It was about getting the best quality from local players,” James stated. “It’s more about players being the right fit for Kerala Blasters with room for improvement. Anas Edathodika likes Kerala so that’s very important. We wanted players who are excited about playing for the football club. It wasn’t about signing big players with big money but signing the right players for the right price and I think we have done that.”

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“The recruitment was important. We can get the best players who are not particularly great people. We recruited good players who were great for the team. I think the bonding over the pre-season has been very good. What I want to see is 100 per cent commitment in training and 100 per cent commitment on the pitch,” he added.

The team will however start the season without defender Anas Edathdika, who was handed a three-match ban for being involved in a tunnel fight with players of Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa during a Super Cup quarterfinal match in April this year.

CK Vineeth and Jackichand Singh celebrate a goal during ISL 4. (Source: ISL)

Kerala Blasters, who finished sixth last season due to lack of creative playmaker in the middle, will open their account against familiar foes ATK in Kolkata on September 29, 2018.

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Kerala Blasters Squad:

Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh, Naveen Kumar, Sujith Sasikumar

Defenders: Anas Edathodika, Cyril Kali, Lalruatthara, Mohamad Rakip, Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Sandhesh Jinghan, Pritam Singh

Midfielders: Courage Pekuson, Deependra Negi, Halicharan Narzary, Hrishi Dhath, Keziron Kizito, Loken Meitei, Nikola Krcmarevic, Prasanth K, Sahal Abdul Samad, Seminlel Doungel, Suraj Rawat, Zakeer Mundampara

Forwards: CK Vineeth, Matej Poplatnik, Slavisla Stojanovic

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