The coach shared his thoughts on the opponents and highlighted his expectations from the first game.

The ninth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) is set to begin on Friday, 7th October. The current runners up Kerala Blasters FC will play East Bengal FC in the opening match at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi. A day before the encounter, KBFC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic, captain Jessel Carneiro and new signing Saurav Mandal addressed the media in their first pre-match press conference:

Ivan Vukomanovic’s objectives for this season

“You know ISL is such a nice competition because of the fact that anybody can beat anybody. You know last year if you look at our case, nobody expected us to reach the finals. After such a long period, let’s say such a dry period without any kind of huge positive results we managed to have a nice season and reached the finals. We proved that anything is possible. So, this year I think that it will be quite the same that we can see some surprises. Of course, we can see some disappointments too.

“This year it will be completely different because we will have a playoffs of top six. So, it will be a moment of how you will manage your season throughout next month especially in the beginning where all the teams will be fresh later and some of the teams lose that freshness. So many of the components this year will be different compared to last season. It will be interesting and again the fact that anybody can beat anybody is such a nice thing in ISL.”

Managing KBFC in back to back seasons pressure?  

“Well I think there is no pressure. Because it just proves that there is an organisation you work in consistently, you work with the process that you believe in and you work in a project that everybody knows what he has to do. So now we have consistency in the work, players are adapted to the work, technical, medical staff we have such a great cooperation with the management that everything goes smoothly.

“So when you work on the long term especially seeing the process and the complexity of not only ISL but as a club but certain things you want to build up. I was always saying that for us there is no pressure, there is always a pleasure because the players themselves and us are doing something that we love. So when you have this kind of atmosphere with the positivity and the positive mind nice things can happen. So we believe in our objectives and ideas and we will start our season tomorrow and we will see where it will take us.”  

Thoughts on East Bengal

“East Bengal had a couple of less good seasons but it was the same case with Kerala Blasters last year. After such a dry period you have new ideas, you have new motivations, you have new power. I think they can be one of the surprises. Of course, they have good coaches and a good team and like I said anybody can beat anybody In every game and it is possible in ISL. We have to be ready for tomorrow.”

Ivan Vukomanovic on players who left the club and new signings

“It doesn’t add extra pressure. When you start shooting the ball around your house with your father, your brother or with your friends you know you start dreaming about playing in front of big crowds, in front of a huge stadium. This is part of your dream, part of your professional life as a football player and these boys now are in a situation like you know we are part of one club in a huge fan base.

“We are grateful for being part of such a great puzzle as Kerala Blasters playing for those fans and this community. The new players who ride, they ride for a reason. They arrived for a great reason because the club decided and said these boys have quality. It doesn’t matter if we speak about foreign players, domestic players coming from ISL, I-League or any other competition – they have quality. I hope that they have qualities to make some noise this season. 

Kerala Blasters vs East Bengal Preview: Read here

Will see some surprises this season – Ivan Vukomanovic

“Like every year I think that again this year we will see some surprises. We will see one team which was not at the top of the table last year will surprise everybody. Many of the teams every year construct good teams and fight for the shield. From our perspective and our situation we are a team that has to believe in ourselves. We have quality. We have shown last year that we can. Let this season start and then we will see.” 

Expectations on tomorrow’s game

“Well good game, good event with a huge crowd coming for the first game. When the game starts and the players are concentrating and focusing on the things happening on the pitch, on some occasions you are not even aware of what’s happening around  because your focus is on the pitch. So I expect a good game. I expect both teams wanting to go for all three points. I always think as a sportsman so I like to say the better team wins.”

Ivan Vukomanovic On Malayali players

“Speaking of them it is also kind of a message that in all the community speaking about Kerala is a footballer state. It is possible if you respect certain things especially youth programs there is a possibility that you can also reach the first squad of KBFC. I am glad to see the local boys, domestic players improving day by day. It is a great achievement for me as a coach.”

On Sreekuttan’s inclusion in first squad

“Like I said, anything is possible because they showed that even in the pre-season. They are part of the team. These young boys have a quality, they are good guys, they have the potential. So, like last year, we showed you some new names that they can be a value of our team.”

We are not a finished article, says East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine: Read here

Ivan Vukomanovic on changes in playoffs

“From a coaching perspective it is and from a technical side it is better because you have more time to practice – it gives you a longer term. If it is a short term the one moment you get injured you are out so the season for you is done. When the season is on a longer term there is still possibility to recover and can get back in the game. That was the case last year with Jessel (Carneiro). The moment he got injured he was out till the end and we were sorry about it. So, from that perspective it’s nice to have longer term competitions.”

About Indian internationals in the team

“These boys are committed to football, they are committed to their job. They are extremely professional and every player makes that clicking and realize that doing this is your life then you have to understand that you must be consistent in order to reach a higher level. They know their consistency in this season will put them in the map of Indian football that can last for a long term.”

Ivan Vukomanovic On traveling from stadium to stadiums

“From technical perspective, your preparation of these games doesn’t change. So, you prepare for your games now. It depends if you play a home or away games, Of course, there is a travel moment sometimes you have to make a trip on a longer term but as a former football player I know the feeling as a coach. Now even the players they know they have to get into the bus, get into the plane. We are used to this and you have to accept the fact that this is football. This is your life. So after playing a game, you sleep in a hotel. This is it.”  

Ivan Vukomanovic on refereeing in the ISL

“I think that last year with less good decisions we lost many points.  Yet we were never aggressive. Me as a coach, I accept the fact that they are doing their best and they are all good guys. Last week, I had a meeting with the ISL organization and the nice thing is that this year ISL organized all the referees are full-time professionals.

“There is also a very famous English referee who is also on full-time, correcting the referees, improving them and making that next step which is VAR technology which will have to come to ISL as well. This year it might happen again but many teams were not happy with those decisions last year. That is part of the game. We have to deal with it.”

 Ivan Vukomanović’s message to KBFC fans coming to the stadium

“In the stadium, well like Jessel just said, after so long you know the great feeling. We are getting back actually to the right situation playing with the fans together with the crowd and because we play for the fans and it will be such a pleasure and honour to be here tomorrow. So far everything is alright. We are happy with the preseason period. We are happy with everything we achieved in the last couple of months. So, we are very excited and ready for tomorrow’s game.

Looking forward to playing Kerala Blasters away, says Sunil Chhetri: Read here

“Let’s hope that everything will be alright and let’s go for the best. We would like to see the fans tomorrow in huge numbers because even last year when we were playing without the fans I must admit, it was awful. It was not nice playing in that kind of atmosphere. So, this time it will be again a pleasure and of course like last year without them here especially when we are playing our home games we will give everything for the logo, for the badge we are wearing in our shirts.”

Captain Jessel Carneiro on his thoughts on new season

“Right now everybody is popping up for the first match. The team is excited to play the first match in front of the crowd. For two years we haven’t seen the crowd and finally we get to play in front of the crowd and definitely the team is working good and is very much pumped. The playoffs have given us confidence to go for the victory.”

Jessel opens up about his current physical and mental stage

“I’m physically alright now. It’s normal. Before the injury I felt the same and after the surgery I’m alright and everything is going well. I’m looking forward to playing my first game in front of the crowd again and giving all my best and everything I’ve for the team and for the logo.”

Jessel’s advice to new players who have not played before the crowd

When I played my first match, it was obviously the same for me as well but I would say just play their game and be confident because we will be coming with confidence and just play with confidence and try to give your best and whatever we have been training try to implement it in the game and the crowd will be behind you till the 90 minutes.” 

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