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Profile: Who's Gokulam Kerala's new head coach Santiago Varela?

Published at :July 27, 2019 at 1:52 PM
Modified at :July 27, 2019 at 1:52 PM
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The Spaniard was appointed as the head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season but left before the campaign could commence.

Having signed up ahead of the 2018-19 season for the first time, Santiago Varela is back for his second stint at Gokulam Kerala since leaving ahead of the last campaign, having been recently re-appointed as the head coach for the southern outfit.

In his absence the Malabarians finished ninth last season in the I-league under Bino George and appointed Gift Raikhan as George’s replacement for the role of technical director.

Raikhan has since then switched to NEROCA FC in the same portfolio. With the return of Varela, former coach George is set to re-assume the role of technical director replacing Raikhan.

Career in Football

Fernando Andres Santiago Varela was born on 4 June 1973 in the city of Barcelona. He didn’t really get going in his playing career plying his trade in the lower echelons of Spanish football. He eventually found his liking and sacrificed the pitch for the touchline.

Always a person with the penchant for developing young talent, Varela commenced his coaching career at Fundacion Municipal football academy in Barcelona. He quickly rose through the ranks in management and obtained his UEFA Pro License in 2011. He also worked as the football coordinator of amateur football side Almeda CD from 2011 to 2014. 

His first taste of managerial experience was as coach of CF Gava based in the small hamlet of Gava, a coastal town in the province of Catalonia, who play in Tier Five of the Spanish Tercera (third) Division.

Gaining experience in coaching young guns, the now 46-year old authored a book named ‘Futbol Inteligente’ penning his insights on grassroots development and the possibilities of providing youth with ample experience on the big stage, around which his philosophy revolves.

 What does he bring to the side?

The optimism stems from the fact that this partnership between the coach and the team would reap great benefits on the whole. He brings in a wealth of experience in coaching and his vast understanding of unearthing young, talented starlets is expected to stand the club in good stead.

In his previous tenure where he won the Kerala Premier League title with the club, the team scored an average of 2.5 goals/game conceding only nine, evidence of the attacking philosophy employed by the Catalan coach. 

Another import out of the Catalonia school of football coaching, the Spaniard will look to carry on the legacy of his illustrious footballing peers in management, with attacking football as the essence with resistance in defence akin to the Spanish footballing philosophy in practice.

The coach takes up his second assignment with a Gokulam Kerala side with an average age of 21, perfect for him to imbibe his philosophy of fearless football among his youthful charges.

Why Him?

The coach expressed delight at having been able to reunite with the team stating, “It is a great honour to be back. I had some unavoidable circumstances in Spain and had to leave before the I-League started. Now, I am back.”

Having excelled in his previous stint with results on the pitch, the team understand their coach’s ideas and have enough experience playing under Varela, with the bulk of the squad the same as it was during the Spaniard’s first stint with the club from Kerala.

The management has also pinned their hopes on the man from Spain to bring experience and quality to the side with his ideals.

“Gokulam will aim high this season with the foreign coach and his expertise in football will surely help us to aim for glory this year. The coach came late because there was some delay in getting the visa. He is now ready. It is great to see him back with Gokulam and we expect a good start this season,” said VC Praveen, Gokulam Kerala FC president.

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Varela returns with the objective of making Gokulam capable enough to compete for top honours in 2019/20 and will commence his second innings as the head coach at the team’s Durand Cup opener against ISL counterparts Chennaiyin FC at Howrah Maidan on August 8. 

He would also look to improve upon the team’s performance last season (finishing six points off the bottom) and will count on the support of the GKFC Battalia and the team’s faithful in the background to cheer the team on to success.