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I-League 2018-19 Preview: Gokulam Kerala FC

Gokulam Kerala

Background

Gokulam Kerala FC played their first season in the I-League last year. They finished the season in 7th place and defeated big clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and eventual 2017-18 champions Minerva Punjab. In the Hero Super Cup, they beat Northeast United in the qualifiers. Considering it’s Gokulam’s first season in the league, it’s quite impressive what they achieved last year.

Gokulam Kerala started their I-League season poorly, but finished the season strongly. The chief architect of this turnaround was Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka. However, the striker has signed for Mohun Bagan in April this year. They also lost Kivi Zhimomi to Northeast United.

They have appointed Joel Williams as a technical consultant/head coach of the academy. The 28-year old technical coach from Gibraltar was instrumental in defending champions Minerva Punjab’s success story. Joel was the architect of the overseas transfer policy for Minerva Punjab and brought in players like Chencho, Kassim Aidara and William Opoku. He was also involved in creating a detailed strategy each game after analysing opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.

As part of their pre-season, Gokulam Kerala played in the AWES Cup which comprised of teams like Sporting Goa, Sesa FC and ONGC. They managed a win and a draw in the tournament.

Gokulam Kerala

The Gaffer

In March 2018, Fernando Santiago Valera was appointed head coach. He resigned in September citing personal reasons without managing a game in the I-League. He did lead Gokulam Kerala to the Kerala Premier League title. There is a bit of a controversy around this. You can read about it here.

The head coach from last season, Binu George, was serving as technical director for the club when the Spanish Coach Santiago took over the Gokulam team. After Varela’s resignation, Binu George was appointed head coach for the current I-League season.

Bino has an AFC Professional Licence and the team will be familiar with his management style from last season. He prefers the passing game and in a drilled, organised defence.

Player Watch

Antonio German: The former QPR player was signed for his versatility to either play as a winger or a striker. He previously turned up for Kerala Blasters a couple of seasons ago.

Muhammed Rashid & Arjun Jayaraj: The midfielders have impressed last season in spite of a significant bump in competition.

Mudde Musa: The Ugandan defensive midfielder is confident of a strong showing after a proper pre-season this time around.

Fabrico Ortiz: The Argentinian defender was signed this year and will partner Daniel Addo in defence.

Bodo: This exciting 19-year old winger has represented India at all youth levels. He is on loan from Chennaiyin FC this season.

Arnab Das Sharma: The Delhi Dynamos stopper signed this season will probably share his goalkeeping duties alongside Shibin Raj.

What to Expect

With some smart signings, Gokulam Kerala look to strengthen their side as well as tide over the departures of Henry Kisekka and Kivi Zhimomi. A familiar face in the coaching department in Binu George and a few astute signings off the pitch (Satheevan Balan, Joel Williams) should hold them in good stead.

A top half finish beckons for the Malabarians if they play to their potential.

 

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