The KBFC head coach urged fans to continue hoping for the best.

In the upcoming 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season, Kerala Blasters will have a new head coach in Ivan Vukomanovic. Fans have been hearing his name a lot in the past couple of months, which is why they all know several details about him already.

Recently, Khel Now caught up with the man himself. In an hour-long interaction, we came to know from him the finer details regarding his move to India, why he chose the Blasters? What his main objectives would be ahead of ISL 2021-22? And more. This particular article pertains to Part 1 of our conversation – and the earliest conclusion that we have derived is that he is an optimist. Vukomanovic always ‘hopes for the best,’ a line of his that repeated many times over the course of our interaction.

He began by speaking about how things are at his place right now. “All’s going well. I’m here with my family and, we have no lockdowns right now. Let’s just say it’s easier than how it was in the past month, in the past year. Hopefully, everything will become better soon and the pandemic situation all across the world gets solved. Can’t wait to meet the fans and join my new team, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” he said.

Why Kerala Blasters

“In football, sometimes things happen quickly. The very first contact itself, between Kerala Blasters and myself, was quite promising,” Ivan Vukomanovic revealed, opening up on his move to the Kochi-based outfit. “I had a positive feeling right from there. When I meet people, I like to have that positive feeling. It’s good for me. The professionalism that Karolis Skinkys showed in our conversations also has to be mentioned. That professionalism reflected in the club’s work as well,” he added.

Another important reason for joining was the fans, according to the Serbian. “Seeing this massive yellow army of fans back the club was wonderful. I immediately wanted to become a part of the Kerala Blasters project, the club’s family. I’m really glad right now that I took that decision.”

Why Indian football

Fans need not be reminded of how the tactician is working on a non-European coaching assignment for the first time in his career, at Kerala Blasters. When asked about this sudden shift from Europe to India, Ivan Vukomanovic said, “I love challenges. As I mentioned earlier, the huge fanbase of Kerala Blasters, among other things, made me arrive at the conclusion that this is a good challenge.

“This particular assignment offers interesting and exciting opportunities. The Indian Super League as such is a growing league. It will be bigger and better in the years to come and I will be part of that. Hopefully, it’s for the best. I think Indian football will improve year by year,” the 44-year-old further added.

Role of Karolis Skinkys

WATCH: New head coach Ivan Vukomanovic reveals why he chose Kerala Blasters

The KBFC boss also spoke about the role played by the club’s Sporting Director, Karolis Skinkys, in his appointment. “As I’ve already mentioned, he was very professional right from our first contact. In football, things should be handled that way and I liked that aspect of his. Talks were concrete and to the point. We understood each other well, be it in terms of footballing topics or anything else.

“When you click with someone that well, it is easy to collaborate with them and I am happy to work with Skinkys. He is the right man for his job, he knows his job well,” the coach explained further.

Impact of COVID-19 on his job selection

With India currently facing a big threat by COVID-19, clubs are finding it very difficult to make foreign signings. Khel Now had learned that the Blasters also faced similar problems while trying to recruit a new coach. It was not until June that Ivan Vukomanovic emerged as their final choice – and we asked him if he had concerns related to Coronavirus before accepting the club’s offer.

The Serbian then revealed to us that he was close to signing for another foreign club last summer, before COVID-19 started wreaking havoc across the globe. “I could have taken over another project way before this. But then, something happened which no one could control,” he said.

“In such situations, what we can do is adapt to the changes. But, it was very difficult for me to do so as my family got hit by the virus. My mother hardly survived, my father passed away… and I decided not to work. I wanted to be with my family. Later, my brother, his family and myself tested positive around Christmas last year.

“We’ve all vaccinated now. We’re trying to live responsibly and protect ourselves now. Speaking about COVID, I think that if we pay attention to the experts and follow what they say, it’s possible to avoid problems. But yes, I also understand if some players or coaches find it hard to travel overseas and come to India. For me, it was never an issue. I wasn’t afraid. I’m a guy who can adapt quickly and go with the flow. We will now have to adapt to the bio-bubble again and hope that things get better soon. As long as we follow the rules, it should be fine,” he further added.

Why should fans believe in him

Vukomanovic has read and learned plenty about his new club – including the fact that he is their 12th coaching appointment across a short span of just seven years. On behalf of the Yellow Army’s fans, Khel Now asked why they should believe that the former Standard Liege coach would make a difference.

“A tough question indeed,” the 44-year-old laughed in response. “A lot of people speak about pressure as something that’s tough. However, I see it as a positive influence. As a former footballer and now a coach, I have observed that everyone dreams to play in front of thousands of fans. Ideally, that should motivate those in the sport.

“As a result, I think that as a coach, I should be building up the right process that would garner good results with the set of players that is available. This mindset has worked for me so far. The process is all about educating players and winning games with them. But, this does not happen overnight in any sport. A perfect example would be the Olympics that’s going on right now,” he explained.

“The sportspersons taking part in Tokyo right now – they didn’t start their preparations just months ago. For most of them, it’s a process that started four, five years ago,” Ivan Vukomanovic added. According to him, when they achieve good results this time, it will be the culmination of years of effort – and the same applies for football projects as well.

“Every day counts. We will definitely work together and I think it will be alright. This Kerala Blasters squad has several interesting players, players with a lot of potential. When I work with them, maybe some interesting combination will come up which may click and help the side in the long run.

“Football is all about working the right way. You have to respect footballing logic in all cases. You cannot just focus on results, the same focus should be given to every day’s work as well. I work that way and hence let’s hope for the best. We can judge later on, let’s not judge a book by it’s cover as the saying. We’ll see,” he summed up.

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