In the backdrop of stunning landscapes throughout the state, Kerala is also a powerhouse of football talents like West Bengal and Goa. The ‘God’s own country’ has produced a plethora of football talent over the years. The likes of V. P Sathyan, C. V. Pappachan, U Sharaf Ali, Mathew Varghese and many more not only graced the game with their talent but also changed the notion of Indian football to the world. If we are talking about football in Kerala then how one can must not remember the most notable talent from Kerala, the legendary Olympian Rahaman. Thazhatheri Abdul Rahaman was born on 20th January, 1934 in Kozhikode, Kerala. At an early age of 19, he made his debut against Russia in 1955. But his biggest ever achievement was to be a part of the squad that finished on the 4th position in the 1956 Olympics, which is India’s biggest achievement so far on an international level in football. After that, football in Kerala was blooming and in the 90’s Indian national team would have five or more players from Kerala in the starting lineup. However, the arrival of Indian Super League has changed the perspective of football in Kerala for better. They might not be in their glory days but they are slowly picking themselves up.
The two time finalists, Kerala Blasters FC came into existence on May 24, 2014 and began their professional journey in October 2014. The team got its name from one of its owner, former Indian cricketer and legend Sachin Tendulkar who was referred to as the Master Blaster. Kerala Blasters FC had tough luck so far, despite reaching the finals twice they lost both time to Atletico de Kolkata in the finals. However, they have the potential to lift the title but it remains to see when.
Indian Super League History:
2014 – 2015
The maiden journey to the Indian Super League for Kerala Blasters FC would always be a sad memory. They started the campaign poorly, losing out to NorthEast United FC in their opening game. It followed for two more matches after that to get their first ever victory in ISL. They held on to their winning momentum to reach the play-offs where they beat Pune City FC to meet Atletico de Kolkata in the final. They held on to the game with a goalless draw in the first 90 minutes but a last minute goal in the added time by Mohammed Rafique stole away the title from the Keralites. In that season, they did have some great performances but all tricks failed in the final against ATK. They even brought along former English international David James as their marquee player cum head coach but after losing out on the final, David James was laid off.
2015 – 2016
The second season started with promises for Kerala Blasters as they thrashed NorthEast United FC in their opening game in this edition of ISL. In their inaugural season, they lost their opening game to NorthEast United FC but this was payback time. However, their second match saw those locking horns with Mumbai City FC for a draw and after that they lost four matches in a row. Their losing streak continued as they found themselves on the last position on the points table, humiliated and devastated. The terrible season saw their new coach Peter Taylor being dismissed in the middle of the season as head coach and Terry Phelan, took up the job who also failed to turn things around in the end.
2016 – 2017
To give a new shape to their dream, Kerala Blasters FC started off their third campaign with Steve Coppell as their head coach from Crystal Palace and went on to sign Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season. They also got their former players like Michael Chopra and Cedric Hengart back alongside signing new faces like Mohammed Rafique, Graham Stack, Kervens Belfort and others to strengthen their squad. But their opening game in the third season found the same roots of the previous season as they struggled to win in the first month of the season. However, after the first month they found some stability in the back and soon became one of the strongest line of defense in the ISL. They were so much focused in not let their opponents score, that they failed to score the goals that mattered. With the return of C K Vineeth from Bengaluru FC from, loan Kerala Blasters found the right balance in the front as they finished 3rd on the points table. They met Delhi Dynamos FC in the play offs and after winning the game on penalties, they went on to the finals where they faced Atletico de Kolkata only to lose their second final in three seasons.
Last Indian Super League performance
2017 – 2018
Looking to rewrite the history, in their fourth edition Kerala Blasters FC started their journey by locking horns with Atletico de Kolkata at home. That game went for a draw so did their next two games at home. They got their first break against NorthEast United FC in December through a C K Vineeth goal who had just returned from suspension. Despite finding the balance they failed to execute their attacks and after losing out on so many close matches, Kerala Blasters FC eventually found themselves on the 6th position on the points table, ineligible to qualify for the play offs. However, they did end the season with a loss against Bengaluru FC at Bangalore and would now to start the fifth edition afresh.
Kerala Blasters FC got their name from Sachin Tendulkar, who would always be regarded as the Master Blaster for his godly batting performances that made the nation of India to see and fall in love with the gentleman’s game. However, Sachin Tendulkar ended his association with the ISL club as new stakeholders are coming in has left the football fans heartbroken. Moreover, Kerala Blasters FC always had fling for star players and big names previously but under their new coach David James, they are looking for a team that would finally deliver their long lost dream.
Kerala Blasters Full Squad:
Goalkeepers: Sujith Sasikumar, Naveen Kumar, Dheeraj Singh
Defenders: Pritam Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Mohammad Rakip, Lalruatthara, Cyril Kali, Anas Edathodika
Midfielders: Zakeer Mundampara, Suraj Rawat, Seminel Doungel, Sahal Abdul Samad, Prasanth K, Nikola Krcmarevic, Loken Meitei, Keziron Kizito, Hrishi Dhath, halicharan Narzary, Deependra Negi, Courage Pekuson
Forwards: Slavisa Stojanovic, Matej Poplatnik, C K Vineeth
(As of August 2018)
What is KBFC’s playing formation?
Kerala Blasters FC prefers to go with a 4-4-2 formation because the four defenders will be strengthened by the four midfielders and together they will provide for the two forwards in the front.
Last Playing XI:
Paul Rachubka (GK); Rino Anto, Sandesh Jhingan, Wes Brown, Lalruatthara; Deependra Negi, Arata Izumi, Milan Singh, C K Vineeth; Jackichand Singh, Gudjon Baldvinsson
IndiaFantasy Picks from ATK:
C K Vineeth has been exceptional with Kerala Blasters FC. He might not have scored the most goals for his time but he scored the crucial ones. He scored 4 goals in the 14 matches he played for Kerala Blasters FC.
Courage Pekuson has been the powerhouse of midfield for the Keralites as he managed to provide 5 assists in the 17 matches he played in the last season.
Paul Rachubka would be crucial in the goal for KBFC in this season as he kept 5 clean sheets in 12 matches, making 33 saves in total.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Kerala Blasters FC football team?
Their new found strength has been their strong line of defense that saw them stopping most teams getting past them in the Indian Super League. Their defence trios Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Lalruatthara have been phenomenal along with their foreign teammates.
If only their defense could have made up for their attack, they would have been an impossible team to beat but the lack of experience in personnel has failed to create chances for their attackers and still, there has been no updates on who they have got for this season.
Coach: David James
Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi
If KBFC can reach the final in this edition of the Indian Super League then they will be the first team to play in three finals in the history of ISL.