The Italian head coach also talked at length about the two leagues of Indian football.

Vincenzo Alberto Annese’s Gokulam Kerala were knocked out of the AFC Cup 2022 group stages after a bitter 1-2 loss to Bashundhara Kings in their final group game. The Kings took a two-goal lead through goals from Robson Silva (36′) and Nuha Marong (54′) before Jourdain Fletcher (75′) pulled one back for the Malabarians. However, that wasn’t enough for Gokulam as they failed to make a comeback and went down in the end.

The Malabarians head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese met with the media to discuss his team’s performance after the game.

Vincenzo Alberto Annese’s thoughts on the result

The Malabarians’ manager Vincenzo Alberto Annese was disappointed with the loss. When asked about what went wrong in the game, he spoke at length to explain everything that didn’t go as per their plans.

He began, “What went wrong is that ordinarily, we don’t concede too many chances. We knew their no.10 is such a quality player. He made a big difference in 1v1 chances and created a lot of chances and we knew he was the biggest strength of the team. We performed well, what we did maybe Sreekutten and Luka could’ve done better as it was expected from Luka, but he was hit by an injury.

“Everything was okay, but what made the difference was the no.1 between the two clubs. They were passing the ball to them and he just went in 1v1 with the right-back and tried shooting. We missed an open chance in the early minutes when we went past their backline and maybe the game would’ve been different if that was scored.

The Italian continued, “I’m so proud of my boys, they did an amazing job in a very difficult group. In this competition, over the three games, when Maziya was leading in the second game, it was tough to create so many chances and it was the same today. Maybe with more fit players, we would’ve done better in this tournament. But the federation told the I-League to finish on the 14th (of May) and the schedule was too crowded.

“We played seven games in 21 days. Many might say we’re used to doing this, but you can’t ever get used to it. When you compete for the title and get to the final stages, you lose some energy. Maybe we would’ve been different if there was a bigger gap between the I-League and the AFC Cup. In general, one statement I’d like to make about these games was that the team that impressed me the most with their speed of the ball, or keeping the ball was Maziya,” he added.

A message to Stimac

The Gokulam manager also revealed about having talks with Igor Stimac and recommending players. For the uninitiated, the Italian strongly believes that his side and the other I-League teams have players worthy of playing for the national team.

He stated, “We played good football ourselves, it was our third international game. It was difficult to keep the focus on my players because many want to play in the ISL next season. I’m proud of this because Gokulam in two years have given a lot of players to get promoted to the ISL. I can see that we have a very talented squad, I hope the likes of Jithin MS and Emil Benny get more experience because they are young.

I suggested them to Mr. Igor Stimac because they are wonderful. They must play for the Indian side. In India, you don’t have many players who can play 1v1 like them. I hope Mr. Stimac watches these two players because they are great talents and are the future of the national team.

New challenge at Gokulam next season?

When asked whether he aspires to build a new squad after ending the season with the I-League title, Vincenzo explained how proud he was about his team’s recent achievements. He believes promoting the inexperienced reserve players and giving them the gametime in I-League should be the way ahead for teams.

The 37-year-old manager, “The current season was wonderful. If you see I-League, maybe the focus is more on ISL, but we played brilliant football in the I-League. We dominated games and scored 46 goals. For us to dominate I-League and then play in this competition for some college players is something I’m very proud of. I’m proud of the job we’ve done and that Gokulam Kerala have given free hand to players. In India, some coaches close their mouths and don’t speak.

“But I don’t think about what people think, I don’t think about agents offering players and giving me a commission. I don’t want any commission. I’m proud of that. Many I-League players come to trial for us, but I’ve sent them back because we can’t pay that much money. For example, Alex Saji came from the SAFF team, and Jasim came from the reserves team and came to us this year.

“Rishad is a reserve team player and played in the I-League. Emil and Jithin are all reserve team players who come to play. Sreekutten was playing in the KPL for Kerala Blasters. This is the team we found and this is the strength we used. All these are new in the I-League system. I’m so proud that many inexperienced players in our squad played against national team players and international players. It’s been an amazing season,” he added.

Where his future lies

Vincenzo Alberto Annese also spoke about what is needed for him to stay at Gokulam Kerala next season or in India itself. He said, “I need the motivation to stay here. If I find a  good project in India, I’ll try to follow that project. I need to speak with the Gokulam Kerala president, for me he is everything, he is a good man that gave me a lot of freedom. I need motivation, if we can get motivation from a new challenge, that can be good. Maybe I can try to win ISL next season!”

What is needed to stay at Gokulam Kerala?

Finally, speaking about what is needed for him to stay at Gokulam Kerala next season, Vincenzo said, “First of all, in India, they change a lot of rules every year! I trust the Indian federation about the club competitions and all. But they might change the rule tomorrow as well (regarding promotion).

“Till now, there were no qualifiers to stay in ISL. In motivation to stay in one club for many years, seeing the same fate is not easy, even for myself. I need to speak with the president. If I stay, I like evolution and I’ll need a change of players. I need new faces in my team to stay,” he finished off.

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