The Spaniard opened up on his plans for the upcoming season, young players in the team, the amazing supporters and more.

  • National team player Nishu Kumar has a lot of potential
  • Sahal Abdul Samad and Nongdamba Naorem the two main players who can turn around the team’s fortunes
  • Most important player in any team is the whole team itself

On Sunday, Kibu Vicuna, the new head coach of the Kerala Blasters interacted with fans via the Instagram account of Manjappada, the official fan club of the team. The Spanish head coach is currently back in his home country, eagerly waiting for the coronavirus-induced lockdown restrictions to be relaxed across the world, so that he can return to India and join the Kochi-based club for his latest assignment.

During the hour-long interview, Vicuna spoke on a host of topics, including his objectives for the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) season, the prospects of working with a club that is one of the most-followed teams in the country and so on. He also confirmed the signing of defender Nishu Kumar from Bengaluru FC.

“I joined Kerala Blasters because I was quite happy with the project I was offered by their management. They also have perhaps the best kind of supporters among all football clubs in the country. Working on such an ambitious project for a club with such a huge fanbase is a big and exciting challenge and I look forward to joining the team soon,” he said when asked about what drew him to the two-time ISL runners-up.

Vicuna also dropped hints on the Kochi outfit’s aims and objectives ahead of the 2020-21 season. He admitted that the competition is going to be very tough, but also gave the fans hope by saying that finishing in a playoffs position is very much a possibility for the team. “Competition in ISL is very tough. Teams are almost equally strong. Hence, we should maintain top form throughout the season,” he said.

“Reaching the playoffs is all the more important for Kerala Blasters because the team couldn’t get there in the last three seasons. To finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the playoffs is our first objective.”

“Every coach has his own style,” he went on. “I think it would be better to go forward step-by-step rather than thinking about winning the title already. I watched all of Kerala Blasters’ matches from last season and understood that we have good players when it comes to attacking. This will definitely be taken into account when we are making plans for the new season. Right now, we are still working on building our squad. We will try to build the best team possible, so that our primary objective of reaching the top four can be achieved.”

WATCH: All goals by Kerala Blasters in 2019-20 season

Kibu Vicuna observed that although the Yellow Army played well last season, they finished in the bottom half of the table primarily due to their inability to create goalscoring opportunities. “Let me be very clear, Kerala Blasters played well last season. They often enjoyed more possession of the ball than their opponents, but that did not amount to much because the number of chances they created was very less.

“So, this time, I’ll be looking to allow the team to continue playing a possession-based style, while forcing them to work hard on creating more goalscoring chances. I will also be focusing on developing a more organized defence because I believe that the team conceded too many goals last season due to defensive errors.”

“Balance is a key aspect of football. As a team, your defence needs to strike a balance with the attack. Only then you can transition easily between both processes and dominate your opponents in the game,” he added.

The former Mohun Bagan coach also addressed the lack of consistency shown by the team in recent times. He highlighted the importance of introducing mental conditioning along with fitness, nutrition and physical training exercises provided the team wants to find themselves developing into a major force in Indian football in the years to come.

Further, he went on to reveal that one of his major goals during the pre-season training would be to make mental conditioning a routine part of his training exercises. It is so that the players will be more prepared for the next campaign, especially after a disappointing seventh-place finish last season. “We are currently not training with the team as you all know, but all of us are meeting and talking to each other via video conferencing. Players are also being given various physical and mental training exercises to help them prepare for pre-season training,” Kibu Vicuna revealed.

He then proceeded to lavish praise on Kerala Blasters’ young stars Sahal Abdul Samad and Nongdamba Naorem – the two main players who can turn around the team’s fortunes according to him.

“Sahal is a very creative player. He can play in a number of positions – as a No. 8, No. 10, and so on. His passing is impeccable. From what I saw in his highlights from last season, his through-passes are extremely effective. It is not surprising that he has found his way into the Indian football team and he is definitely one of the most important young players in the country.”

“Nongdamba Naorem played under me at Mohun Bagan last season. He joined them on loan from the Blasters, but now he has returned. He was exceptional last season and played a major role in us winning the I-League title. I hope he will continue to produce promising results with Kerala Blasters as well next season.

“Jessel (Carneiro) – whose contract we renewed last week, Prasanth, Abdul Hakku, Jeakson Singh, Rahul KP will also stay with us next season. These are the few other players I like,” Kibu Vicuna explained, before confirming Nishu Kumar’s signing indirectly.

“Nishu Kumar has played in the Indian national team and he has a lot of potential,” he said, indicating that the club have signed him. Although, an official announcement from the outfit is still pending.

“That said, I believe that the most important player in any team is the whole team itself,” he went on to add. “For me, to create a good team means creating a very good atmosphere in the dressing room and to give equal importance to every player. The first step in creating a good team is to make it a good family.

“Footballing styles, coaches and even players come and go, but the team has to stay the same way if they are looking to achieve success on the pitch. As the new head coach of Kerala Blasters, I would try my best to be approachable by any player. I can help them in the best way possible only if they open up to me.”

Kibu Vicuna concluded by saying that he hopes the season will not be played behind closed doors. “Supporters are our biggest strength. Football is for people. I was watching the Spanish league and it is sad to see fantastic games of Barcelona and Real Madrid being held like friendlies, without supporters. If we play with fans (in the stands), it is like starting with a 1-0 lead. I don’t think we are going to play behind closed doors, I hope not,” he signed off.

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