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Kerala Blasters FC

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Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters FC.svg
Full name Kerala Blasters Football Club
Founded May 24, 2014; 3 years ago (2014-05-24)
Ground Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Kochi, Kerala
Ground Capacity 38,086[1]
Owner Blasters Sports Pvt Ltd
CEO Varun Tripuraneni
Head Coach David James
League Indian Super League
2016 Regular season: 2nd
Finals: Runners-up
Website Club website
Current season
Active departments of Kerala Blasters FC
Football pictogram.svg Football pictogram.svg Football pictogram.svg
Football (Men's) Football Reserves (Men's) Football Youth (Men's)

Kerala Blasters Football Club is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala. The Blasters compete in the Indian Super League, one of the top leagues of Indian football. The club was established on 24 May 2014 and began their first professional season a few months later in October 2014. The team name comes from one of their owners, former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who was known as the "Master Blaster" during his playing days.

The club's current majority stake holder is Sachin Tendulkar.[2] Minority owners of the club include film stars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, as well as film producer Allu Aravind and industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad.[2] The Blasters play their matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The team has led the league in attendance every season, regularly averaging over 55,000 fans a game.[3]

The Blasters played their inaugural match on 13 October 2014, losing 1–0 to NorthEast United. The club made it to the final of the Indian Super League in 2014. A last minute winner from Mohammed Rafique saw Kerala Blasters be defeated 1–0 by Atlético de Kolkata. Despite not qualifying for the finals the next season, the Blasters managed to make it to the final again in 2016. The team was once again defeated by Atlético de Kolkata, this time through penalties 4–3.

History

Formation

In early 2014, it was announced that the All India Football Federation, the national federation for football in India, and IMGReliance would be accepting bids for ownership of eight of the nine selected cities for the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL), a franchise tournament modelled along the lines of the Indian Premier League for cricket.[4] On 13 April 2014 it was announced that the rights to the Kochi franchise were won by former India cricket captain, Sachin Tendulkar, and serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, and educationalist, Prasad V Potluri.[5] Then, on 27 May 2014, the teams official name was unveiled as the 'Kerala Blasters FC' which is based on the nickname of co-owner Tendulkar, the "Master Blaster".[6]

Construction of the team for the first season started on 22 July when the Kerala Blasters, along with the other seven franchises, took part in the domestic draft to select the first fourteen Indian players in each team.[7] India international Mehtab Hossain was the first draft pick made by Kerala Blasters and thus the first player in Kerala Blasters history.[8] At the end of the draft, the Blasters were composed of fourteen players, including Hossain: Avinabo Bag, Sandip Nandy, Chinadorai Sabeeth, Luis Barreto, Milagres Gonsalves, Ramandeep Singh, Renedy Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Ishfaq Ahmed, Gurwinder Singh, Nirmal Chettri, Sushanth Mathew, and Godwin Franco.[9]

On 13 August 2014, former England international goalkeeper, David James, was announced as the first head coach of the Kerala Blasters and the first marquee player in team history, thus coming in as a player-head coach.[10] Then, on 21 August 2014, the team participated in the international draft in which each team selected seven foreign players to join their team.[11] Former Newcastle United forward Michael Chopra was the first foreign player drafted by the Kerala Blasters.[12]

Inaugural season

Sandesh Jhingan
Sandesh Jhingan won the Emerging Player Award while with the Kerala Blasters during the 2014 season.

The Kerala Blasters began play in October 2014. The team played their first ever match on 13 October 2014 against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. A goal from Koke in the 45th minute saw the Blasters lose their inaugural match 0–1.[13] The first ever Kerala Blasters goal was scored by Iain Hume during the club's second match against Chennaiyin. The Canadian's goal could not prevent the club from suffering defeat again as they lost 1–2 in Chennai.[14] It took the Kerala Blasters till their fourth game to get their first victory when they took on Pune City. Goals from Chinadorai Sabeeth and Penn Orji lead the Blasters to a come from behind 2–1 victory.[15]

After starting the season with a five-game away run, the Kerala Blasters played their first home match on 6 November 2014 against Goa. A Milagres Gonsalves goal lead the Blasters to a home-debut 1–0 victory over the Goans in front of 49,517 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.[16] The Kerala Blasters managed to book their spot into the finals on 9 December 2014. A 1–0 victory over Pune City ensured the Kerala Blasters of qualification.[17]

The Kerala Blasters played their first finals match on 13 December 2014 against southern rivals, Chennaiyin. Despite not being considered the favorite to win the two-legged tie out of the two, the Kerala Blasters won the first leg at home 3–0 through goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Iain Hume, and Sushanth Mathew.[18] During the second leg in Chennai, the Kerala Blasters suffered a massive scare. Despite entering the second leg with the three goal advantage, Chennaiyin managed to draw the tie level by winning in regular time 3–0 themselves. However, in extra-time, the Kerala Blasters managed to strike back and score the decisive goal in the 117th minute from Stephen Pearson to win the tie 4–3 and thus enter the final.[19]

In the final, the Kerala Blasters took on Atlético de Kolkata at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. Despite holding on for ninety minutes, it was Atlético de Kolkata that came out on top with a Mohammed Rafique goal in the 95th minute earning the Kolkata side the title with a 1–0 victory.[20]

2015 season

After the 2014 season, it was announced that David James would not return to the club as head coach and marquee player. On 12 May 2015 it was announced that former England U20 head coach Peter Taylor would take over as the Blasters head coach.[21] New foreign signings coming into the season included Peter Ramage, Stephen Bywater, Bruno Perone, Sanchez Watt, João Coimbra, and marquee signing Carlos Marchena.[22]

The first match of the season was played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, with the Kerala Blasters hosting NorthEast United. The Kerala Blasters won 3–1 through goals from Josu, Mohammed Rafi, and Sanchez Watt.[23] However, the Blasters followed that victory drawing their next match against Mumbai City and then losing their next four matches which eventually lead to the dismissal of Peter Taylor as head coach.[24] Assistant coach Trevor Morgan was in charge for one match before Terry Phelan was named head coach for the rest of the season.[25] Fortunes failed to change for the Kerala Blasters as the club ended their second season in last place, failing to qualify for the Indian Super League finals.[26]

2016 season

In an effort to rebuild after failing to qualify for the finals the previous season, the Kerala Blasters announced the signing of former Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell as their head coach on 21 June 2016.[27] A week later, the club announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season.[28] Other moves made before the season included the signing of Graham Stack, Kervens Belfort, Duckens Nazon, and Mohammed Rafique and return of former players Michael Chopra and Cédric Hengbart.[29]

The season began where the previous left off, with a 1–0 defeat away from home against NorthEast United.[30] After the first month of the season, the Blasters had one of the best defenses statistically in the league but struggled to find the back of the net.[31] In the second half of the season, after the return of C.K. Vineeth from loan with Bengaluru FC, the Blasters managed to surge their way into the finals.[32]

After finishing in second during the regular season, the Kerala Blasters took on third placed Delhi Dynamos in the first round of the finals.[33] The first leg took place on 11 December in Kochi. The Blasters won the match 1–0 through Kervens Belfort's 65th-minute goal.[34] During the second leg in Delhi, the Dynamos won in extra time 2–1 which meant that the tie went to penalties. The Kerala Blasters won the penalty shootout 3–0 to move into the final.[35]

In the final, the Kerala Blasters would play host to Atlético de Kolkata. The Blasters took the lead early through Mohammed Rafi before Kolkata equalized soon after. The match went into a penalty shootout, Despite taking the lead early in the shootout, the Kerala Blasters lost 4–3 and thus were defeated in their second final in three seasons.[36]

Team colours and crest

The team colours and logo for the Kerala Blasters were unveiled during the club's official launch function on 15 September 2014.[37] The club colours are yellow and blue. Majority owner, Sachin Tendulkar, said "The idea behind the yellow jersey was yellow stands for determination and faith. Determination by Kerala Blasters on the field to go and perform to the best of their ability and faith for all the well wishers of Kerala Blasters, to have faith in the team that they will go out and play in the right spirit."[38]

The logo was designed around the elephant, one of Kerala's main symbols, and to reflect its place in Kerala’s culture and festivities. The logo was also designed to symbolize the heritage, culture, spirit and passion of Kerala and its love for football. According to Kerala Blasters then co-owner, Prasad V. Potluri, "The logo reflects the cultural and sporting legacy of Kerala symbolized by the elephant. The elephant is a symbol of strength and pride, rooted in its family and community, reflecting the aspiration and spirit of Kerala Blasters."[37]

Sponsorship

On 29 September 2014, it was announced that Muthoot Pappachan Group, a local Kerala based business house, would be the title sponsor for the Kerala Blasters.[39] The original agreement with Muthoot Pappachan Group would see the company sponsor the Blasters for one season but with the option to extend the partnership further.[39] A month later, on 24 October, the Blasters officially announced that German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[40] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 before only Muthoot remained as title sponsor going into the 2016 season.[41]

Stadium

The Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.[42] The stadium is multipurpose, having been mainly used for both football and cricket. The stadium has hosted matches for both the India football team and India cricket team. In the past, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium used to be the host of National Football League and I-League clubs such as FC Kochin and Viva Kerala.[43][44] The stadium was also a venue used in the Indian Premier League for the Kochi Tuskers Kerala and was a venue for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.[45]

Supporters and rivalries

Kerala Blasters supporters

The Manjappada Fan Group are the most active and biggest fan group for the Kerala Blasters and the Indian Super League overall.[46] The group was founded in 2014 when the Blasters was formed themselves with the purpose of having all the fans of the Kerala Blasters under one umbrella.[46] Before every match, the group reaches the stadium early to setup tifos, banners, and balloons.[46]

Overall, the Kerala Blasters are known in the ISL for their fanatical supporters, known together as the "Yellow Army". Averaging over 55,000 fans a game, the Blasters have held the title highest average attendance in the league every season that they have played.[3] According to a local cab driver "when there is a match [in Kochi], there is traffic jam all over in the city. In fact, you can't go on the street where the stadium is. The stretch from the team hotel to the stadium (about 5km) is completely packed with fans. In a car it might even take you two hours to get through it."[47] "In Kerala, the people support football tirelessly. It doesn't matter if the team wins or loses, they are always there in high numbers. I've played at places like Kolkata, where if the team loses two-three matches on the spin, the numbers in the stadium diminish. There is nothing like that in Kerala," said former India international Pappachen Pradeep on the football fans in Kerala.[47]

The Kerala Blasters have developed a rivalry with fellow southern team, Chennaiyin. Former Chennaiyin head coach Marco Materazzi was sent off when both clubs faced each other during the 2014 finals.[48] The former Italy international was then given a one-match suspension in 2016 when he was involved in a scuffle between a Chennaiyin and a Kerala Blasters player. This incident lead to the return leg in Kochi featuring Kerala Blasters fans wearing masks of Zinedine Zidane and thus intensified the overall rivalry between the clubs.[48]

Ownership

The ownership group of the Kerala Blasters is currently part of a consortium known as Blasters Sports Pvt Ltd.[2] The club's majority owner is former India cricket team star Sachin Tendulkar.[2] Tendulkar had stated that his reasons for taking up a stake in the club were to see football rise in popularity in India and to see Kerala return to its former glory as a football state in the country.[49] "People used to call me master blaster. I'm supporting Kerala, Kochi team. I hope the entire Kerala will be behind our football team. That's why we thought of naming it as Kerala Blasters FC," said Tendulkar in May 2014, "I grew up playing cricket but very few know that I enjoyed playing other sports too, such as hockey, badminton, table tennis and football. In the Indian team and Mumbai Indians team, we used to play football during the warm-up session. It used to be so competitive that we were forced to stop it fearing injury."[49]

Current other investors for the Blasters include film stars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, as well as film producer Allu Aravind and industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad.[2] Before they all became co-owners, co-ownership of the club was held by Prasad V. Potluri from 2014 to 2015.[49]

Players

First-team squad

As of 1 February 2018.[50]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 England GK Paul Rachubka
4 Serbia DF Nemanja Lakić-Pešić
6 England DF Wes Brown
7 India FW Karan Sawhney
8 India MF Arata Izumi
9 Bulgaria FW Dimitar Berbatov
10 Canada FW Iain Hume
11 India FW Prasanth Karuthadathkuni
12 India MF Milan Singh
13 India MF C.K. Vineeth
14 India MF Loken Meitei
15 India MF Deependra Negi
16 Iceland FW Guðjón Baldvinsson
18 India MF Sahal Abdul Samad
19 India MF Siam Hanghal
No. Position Player
20 India MF Jackichand Singh
21 India DF Sandesh Jhingan (captain)
22 India DF Jishnu Balakrishnan
23 India DF Pritam Kumar Singh
24 India GK Sandip Nandy
25 India GK Sujith Sasikumar
27 India GK Subhasish Roy Chowdhury
28 India DF Samuel Shadap
31 India DF Rino Anto
32 India DF Lalthakima
36 India MF Ajith Sivan
39 India DF Lalruatthara
85 Spain MF Pulga
99 Ghana MF Courage Pekuson

Former players

Coaching staff

Position Name
Head coach England David James
Assistant coach Iceland Hermann Hreiðarsson
Assistant coach India Thangboi Singto

Statistics and records

Season-by-season

As of match played 8 February 2018
Season League Finals Top Scorer
P W D L GF GA Pts Position Player Goals
2014 14 5 4 5 9 11 19 4th Runners-up Canada Iain Hume 5
2015 14 3 4 7 22 27 13 8th DNQ England Antonio German
England Chris Dagnall
6
2016 14 6 4 4 12 14 22 2nd Runners-up India C.K. Vineeth 5
2017–18 15 5 6 4 19 20 21 5th TBD TBD

Head coaches record

As of match played 8 February 2018
Name Nationality From To P W D L GF GA Win%
David James  England 13 August 2014 20 December 2014 17 6 4 7 13 15 035.29
Peter Taylor  England 12 May 2015 28 October 2015 6 1 1 4 7 9 016.67
Trevor Morgan (Caretaker)  England 28 October 2015 1 November 2015 1 0 1 0 1 1 000.00
Terry Phelan  Ireland 1 November 2015 20 December 2015 7 2 2 3 14 17 028.57
Steve Coppell  England 21 June 2016 12 July 2017 17 7 4 6 15 17 041.18
René Meulensteen  Netherlands 14 July 2017 3 January 2018 7 1 4 2 6 10 014.29
David James  England 3 January 2018 Present 8 4 2 2 13 10 050.00

Team records

Statistics below are for all-time leaders as of 8 February 2018.

References

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  52. ^ "All Time Appearences". WorldFootball. 

External links