The 35-year-old spoke about his move to Indian football, ambitions for his new club and more.

  • The new coach understands of the importance of youth development just like the club does
  • Winning the I-League will be the aim of the club

Currently going through the off-season, almost all Indian football clubs are busy in preparation for the 2020-21 season that is expected to begin only a few weeks from now. Needless to say, Gokulam Kerala are also travelling on the same path, having already revealed the names of a few signings with many more announcements left to come. One of the Malabarians’ most important acquisitions has been that of their new head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese.

A former national team coach of Belize, the Italian has also donned the coaching role in his home country, Ghana, Indonesia, Latvia, Estonia, Kosovo and Palestine. Khel Now recently caught up with the 35-year-old, who spoke on a host of topics including his reasons for joining Gokulam and his objectives for the club next season.

“Gokulam Kerala liked my profile and connected with me through an agent. I would say that we hit it off as soon as we started talking to each other. It felt very nice meeting them and I did not take much time to agree terms,” Annese began by revealing how the I-League side approached to sign him.

“The feedback that I received about Indian football was also very good. Italian coaches and players like (Marco) Materazzi, (Gianluca) Zambrotta and (Alessandro) Del Piero have all taken part in the ISL, along with other legends like Roberto Carlos and Zico. Till about five years ago, I myself was very interested in Indian football as well and I even had options to come here. When I was with the Belize national team last year, I also spoke with the former Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine. He spoke a lot of stuff about Indian football.”

“I feel that my experience of having coached Asian teams and players will help me here,” he went on. “I’ve worked in many countries. Also, I didn’t renew my contracts at Ghana, Belize and so on, but it’s not because I didn’t like working there. I like facing new challenges and believe that India and Indian football can also offer me a lot to learn. Gokulam could be an important part of my coaching career and I am looking forward to the challenges they offer.”

Vincenzo Alberto Annese sounds confident ahead of his debut in Indian football with Gokulam Kerala

Recalling his previous experience of coaching PSIS Semarang in Indonesia, Vincenzo Alberto Annese said that his earliest impressions of Indian football are similar to what he experienced in the Southeast Asian nation. “The ‘3+1′ foreign players’ rule, for instance. I’m sure there are more similarities, but I can’t say for sure unless I start my duties with my new club,” he asserted.

“I’ve already watched a few of Gokulam’s previous games and based on what I saw, I would say that we will play more of an attacking brand of football. Basically, we will play every game only to win and that will reflect in our attacks,” he explained when asked about his possible approach to the game at Gokulam.

“We will try to push forward and look to play more direct football. I am also looking to put more people in the opposition box during our attacks. Last, but not the least, there won’t be much of extra importance to foreign players. With the right mix of both Indian and overseas names, ours will be more of a ‘global’ team.”

The UEFA Pro Licence holder further added that he hopes to start team training soon and that he would look to instill a winning mentality among his players, right from his first day with them. “I want to win the I-League trophy with Gokulam and it is with this mentality that I will start working with them,” he quipped.

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Speaking about the Kozhikode-based side’s youth development, the 35-year-old said that it is one of the areas that requires a lot of attention. He also promised that he will try his best to develop young players and mould them into future stars. Annese added that he is happy with the club’s youth development programme and expressed hope in their methods.

“I like working with young players. They can be trained easily and can adapt to suit any playing style. Their energy is an added bonus and I’m happy that the club considers youth development to be important just like I do.” He also added that Indian football can take a couple of pointers from Italy in this regard, especially in terms of consistency, physical aspects and tactical discipline — both individual and as a team.

In the 2019-20 season, the Malabarians finished sixth in the I-League, 17 points behind champions Mohun Bagan. They were able to win only six out of the 15 matches that they played before the league was terminated. Upon being asked about this, the Italian replied that he is hopeful of a better finish next season. “I am positive that we will do better this season. We have a good team and a good set of players to help us. It is only a matter of time before we make everyone happy with our results,” the tactician said.

Vincenzo Alberto Annese also sent across a message to the fans of Gokulam Kerala saying, “I am aware of the support that the club has and I look forward to meeting them too. “I also request them to continue supporting us through thick and thin. Fans’ support is very important to us, especially in these difficult times. From my side, I can promise that we will try our best not only to win the I-League but also to develop the team and the players and to make them a force to reckon with in Indian football,” he signed off.