José Antonio Vicuña Ochandorena, also known as Kibu Vicuna, believes that ATK Mohun Bagan along with FC Goa and FC Bengaluru have a slight advantage over other Indian Super League (ISL) teams as they have retained a core group of players from last season.
The 49-year-old Spaniard, who is currently the head coach of Kerala Blasters, led Mohun Bagan to their fifth I-League triumph last season. Despite winning the title in March this year, Vicuna had to part ways with the club following Mohun Bagan’s merger with ATK.
“All the teams in the league are very even. All the clubs have good players and coaching staff. There are teams who have retained more players from last season like FC Bengaluru, FC Goa, and ATKMB… giving them a little advantage. But otherwise, the league is very even with the possibility for every team to perform,” Kibu told indianexpress.com.
After his departure, Vicuna was replaced by ATK’s Antonio Lopez Habas as the head coach of the new entity. Although Vicuna is reluctant to speak about his past days in Kolkata, he acknowledged his love for the city.
“Both Kerala and Kolkata are places that love football and have a lot of passion for the sport. The loyalty of the supporters to their team is amazing. Those are the two most passionate places in India,” said the former Mariners coach.
Kerala Blasters are yet to open their account after four matches this season, drawing two and losing two. Recalling his debut match in the ISL against ATK Mohun Bagan, the former boss of Osasuna and Wisla Plock said, “I didn’t feel that I was under any pressure before the game against ATKMB. It was the first game of the season, a special game, but not a different one.”
Vicuna tasted the essence of the Boro Match last season as his Mohun Bagan took on fellow Spaniard Alejandro Menendez’s East Bengal. Recently, Menendez had told indianexpress.com that the domestic football of India needs a long time plan and it shouldn’t rely on overnight success.
Agreeing with his once rival, Vicuna said, “I think that is true. India needs to come up with long term plans in order to reach newer heights. Every coach and player needs time to develop and be a part of the team.”
After already conquering the I-League in his debut year in India, Vicuna is now on the verge of setting a new record. If he manages to win the ISL this season with Kerala Blasters, he would be the first-ever manager to lift both the I-League and ISL trophy.
Vicuna, totally unaware of that fact, signed off by saying, “We are only focusing on how to play in the forthcoming games and not on anything more.”
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