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Odisha are one of the best teams in the league, claims Kerala Blasters boss Ivan Vukomanovic

Published at :April 18, 2024 at 10:16 PM
Modified at :April 18, 2024 at 10:16 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL media)

Alen Philip Mathew

Ivan Vukomanovic also mentioned that Odisha FC were the most consistent team.

After an exciting group phase in the Indian Super League, (ISL) now it’s time for the playoffs. One of the highly anticipated fixtures is the virtual quarter-final clash between Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC, set to take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Odisha. Ahead of this crucial encounter, Kerala Blasters head coach and player, Mohammed Aimen addressed the media in a press conference, shedding light on the team’s preparation and challenges faced throughout the season.

Let’s have a look at what Ivan Vukomanovic said to the press:

Assessment of Odisha FC

Ivan Vukomanovic acknowledged the formidable challenge posed by Odisha FC, noting their attacking prowess and consistency throughout the league campaign. He remarked, “Odisha are one of the best teams in the league. They were one of the most consistent teams throughout the season, with a full squad of foreigners available. They represented India at the Asian level and that’s the team that showed the most this season.”

“It is a knockout, 90-minute game, maybe with extra-time. It’s all about enthusiasm, motivation, and so on. They have many experienced players and it’s a fight with the best to try to win the game.”

Challenges faced by Kerala Blasters

Providing insights into the team’s lineup, Ivan Vukomanovic hinted at the absence of certain players due to health and fitness concerns. “Most probably not (on Dimitrios Dimantakos playing) because he suffered during that period when we had three games in a short time. So, we still have to take care of that. We will assess in today’s training session and if there’s any risk or kind of problem, we cannot take it as we need 100% fit players,” he stated.

Navigating the playoffs

Addressing the unpredictable nature of football, especially in the playoffs, Ivan Vukomanovic highlighted the importance of maintaining a focused mindset. He stressed, “In the game against NorthEast, we only had one player from the start of the season. All others were new and there were many things you couldn’t control. In playoffs, the mindset is different. This is not a long competition where you have time to calculate. Just give 100% on the pitch.”

He also expressed concerns about the challenging weather conditions in Odisha. The coach emphasized the need for adaptation and resilience. “In Kochi, it is hot and here we find it even hotter. But, a football player is like a gladiator. You can never make this an excuse. There are two teams and everyone is suffering. Go outside and adapt. Football is a hard, physical job,” he remarked.

Despite the challenges, Vukomanović expressed optimism about the team’s prospects, noting the return of key players from injury. He mentioned, “We stay positive despite all the issues and recover some of the players. Jeakson (Singh) came back and now (Adrian) Luna. As a coach, it has never happened in my career with this many long injuries. An injury will cause surgery and the player is out for the season and you need replacements.”

Embracing youth & development

Moreover, Vukomanović emphasized the importance of nurturing young talent and the need for clubs to invest in player development. He voiced his concerns about the widening gap between the top and bottom teams in the league, urging clubs to prioritize the long-term development of players. He remarked, “The project of selecting these youngsters years ago is a process. What I noticed in three years is that clubs are not doing it. Then very soon, if teams are not doing that, there will be no more players.”

“Quality, which is already scarce and centralized in a couple of teams. There will be one more team in the next season and I’m afraid that if teams are not taking the process and building up players, the gap between top and bottom will be even larger,” he cautioned.

Investing in Youth: A Long-Term Perspective

Highlighting Kerala Blasters’ commitment to nurturing young talent, Ivan underscored the importance of providing opportunities for emerging players. “It’s the vision of the owners, the vision of the club and the obligation to the community. It also brings identity to the club and state. These boys are proud to be a part of Kerala Blasters. It will bring value to clubs, league and in future to the national team,” he asserted.

In addition to contributing to the team’s success, the coach emphasized the financial benefits of investing in youth development. “These boys are the assets of the club. You can also have the option of improving the financial stability of the club by taking up the process. Again third year in a row, we are one of the teams that give the most time to youngsters in the league. They have time and space to perform,” he explained.

Embracing Positivity and Confidence

Meanwhile, Mohammed Aimen echoed these sentiments, expressing confidence and positivity ahead of the crucial playoff encounter. “Mindset is always positive. It’s a playoff and only one game. We have to win that. We are ready for that and prepared well,” he affirmed.

Aimen also shared the excitement of playing alongside his brother on the same team, highlighting the motivation derived from family support. “It’s a great feeling when two brothers are playing in one team. Parents will be happy and proud. Their happiness is our motivation. Trying to make them happy,” he shared.

At last, Vukomanović rallied his team for the upcoming clash, urging them to give their all on the pitch. He reiterated his belief in the capabilities of his players, stating, “Now there’s one game. We need to fight and give everything and as I always say, may the better team win,” he concluded.

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