The 2017-18 edition of Hero Indian Super League promises to be a spectacular event with ten teams taking part for the first time (with the addition of Jamshedpur and Bengaluru). But the highlight for football fans of Kerala is that Kerala Blasters get a chance to avenge the sore loss against Atletico de Kolkata in last season’s final on home ground.
The fourth season of Indian Super League takes off in Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on November 17. Kerala has a lot of Bengalis promises to ensure that there will be some ground support for the Kolkata team. But the Manjappada will be baying for the blood of the Kolkata team that stole their favourite Ian Hume.
The Blasters are in high spirits after replacing their English coach, Steve Coppell, by Dutchman René Meulensteen, while the Atletico have acquired an English coach in place of last season’s Spanish coach José Francisco Molina.
Having met twice in Indian Super League finals – inaugural 2014 tournament and 2016 edition – Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata have a rivalry going back for years. Blasters are gravely mortified that Atletico won both the final outings. Kerala will be happy to have poached Iain Hume, their hero of the first edition, from Atletico for the 2017 season, though he played a major role in denying them the crown in the second appearance in an Indian Super League final.
Two-time winners Atletico will look to dominate Blasters in the inaugural fixture, but their rivals have the confidence of having Canadian Iain Hume (fondly called Humettan – ettan meaning elder brother – by Kerala fans) back on their side whose heroics of the inaugural edition of the tournament that helped the team progress to the final after five straight losses in the beginning are still green in the hearts of the fans.
Letting bygones be bygones and coming to this edition of the tournament that will conclude with the final in Kolkata on March 4, 2018, Blasters have some big advantages. Apart from the return of Hume (hopefully he strikes form at the right time), they have a Dutch coach. The Dutch are a special breed of humans who are extremely hardworking and untiringly meticulous. While the key Blasters have always shown bouts of extreme brilliance, they have not sustained it in big matches, especially the final. The methodical approach of Meulensteen should do a world of good to Blasters.
The team defence lineup still has unflappable Indian Sandesh Jingan and indomitable Serbian Nemanja Lakić-Pešić. The midfield lineup has mercurial C.K. Vineeth who is an attacking winger. The attack is bound to incisive with Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria) and Hume in the lineup. Former Manchester United star Berbatov is both a skilled forward and a great team player. His ball control and shooting ability complements Hume’s explosive speed and crafty opportunism.
Kerala Blasters have the unique distinction of the continuously highest home ground support with the matches averaging above 55,000. Indeed that support is what has helped the players perform beyond themselves and achieve the feat of become one of the two teams to have played in the final of two seasons, the other being Kolkata.
Kerala Blasters team
|Subhasish Roy Chowdhury||India|
|Pritam Kumar Singh||India|