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Kerala Blasters FC

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Kerala Blasters FC
Official Kerala Blasters FC Logo.png
Full nameKerala Blasters Football Club
Nickname(s)Manjappada (Yellow Army)
The Tuskers
Short nameKBFC
Founded24 May 2014 ; 5 years ago
GroundJawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, Kerala
Capacity80,000
40,000(limited in ISL)[1]
OwnersChiranjeevi, Akkineni Nagarjuna, Allu Aravind and Nimmagadda Prasad
CEOViren D'Silva
Head coachEelco Schattorie
2018–19Regular season: 9th of 10
Finals: Did not qualify
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Kerala Blasters Football Club is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala. The Blasters are one of the ten teams to have been part of the Indian Super League (ISL), the top tier of Indian football since its inception.[2] They play in the league under licence from All India Football Federation (AIFF). The club was established on 24 May 2014 and began their first professional season a few months later in October 2014.

They play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Kochi. The team has held the record for highest league 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 its inaugural season(2014), where they lost 1–0 to Atlético de Kolkata after an extra time goal from Mohammed Rafique. They did not qualify for the finals the next season, but reached the final again in 2016. The team was again defeated by Atlético de Kolkata, this time through penalties 4–3.[4]

History

Formation

In early 2014 the All India Football Federation, the governing body of association football in India, and IMGReliance announced that they would accept bids for the ownership of eight of the selected cities for the inaugural season of Indian Super League (ISL), a franchise football tournament modelled along the lines of the Indian Premier League for cricket.[5] On 13 April 2014, it was announced that the rights to the Kochi franchise had been won by former India national cricket teamcaptain Sachin Tendulkar, and entrepreneur Prasad V Potluri.[6] On 27 May 2014, the team's official name, Kerala Blasters FC was unveiled, which was based on the nickname of co-owner Sachin Tendulkar who was known as Master Blaster during his playing days.[7]

Preparations for the first season started on 22 July when the Kerala Blasters took part in the first domestic draft to select fourteen Indian players.[8] India international Mehtab Hossain was the first draft pick made by Kerala Blasters.[9] Besides Hossain, the team management selected 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 for the team.[10]

On 13 August 2014 former England international goalkeeper David James was chosen as the first head coach and marquee player of the team.[11] On 21 August 2014, the team participated in the international draft where the management selected seven foreign players.[12] Former Newcastle United forward Michael Chopra was the first foreign player drafted by the Kerala Blasters.[13]

Inaugural season

The Kerala Blasters played their first match on 13 October 2014 against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, losing 1–0 after Koke scored the only goal of the match in the 45th minute.[14] The club's first goal was scored by Iain Hume during their second match against Chennaiyin on 21 October. Despite the Canadian's goal, the club could not prevent another defeat as they lost 2–1 in Chennai.[15] It took the Kerala Blasters till their fourth game to get their first victory, beating Pune City. Goals from Chinadorai Sabeeth and Penn Orji led the Blasters to a come from behind 2–1 victory.[16]

After having to play their first five matches away from home, the Kerala Blasters hosted their first home match on 6 November 2014 against Goa. A goal by Milagres Gonsalves led to a 1–0 victory in front of 49,517 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.[17] 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.[18]

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, they won the first leg at home 3–0 through goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Iain Hume, and Sushanth Mathew.[19] During the second leg in Chennai, the Kerala Blasters suffered a massive setback. Despite entering the second leg with the three-goal advantage, Chennaiyin managed to draw the tie level by winning in regular time 3–0 . However, in extra-time, the Kerala Blasters managed to score the decisive goal in the 117th minute from Stephen Pearson to win the tie 4–3 and thus enter the final.[20]

In the final, they took on Atlético de Kolkata at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. Atlético de Kolkata won 1–0 after Mohammed Rafique scored in the 95th minute .[21]

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.[22] New foreign signings coming into the season included Peter Ramage, Stephen Bywater, Bruno Perone, Sanchez Watt, João Coimbra, and marquee signing Carlos Marchena.[23]

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.[24] However, the Blasters followed that victory drawing their next match against Mumbai City and then losing their next four matches which eventually led to the dismissal of Peter Taylor as head coach.[25] Assistant coach Trevor Morgan was in charge for one match before Terry Phelan was named head coach for the rest of the season.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] A week later, the club announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season.[29] 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.[30]

The season began where the previous left off, with a 1–0 defeat away from home against NorthEast United.[31] After the first month of the season, the Blasters had one of the best defenses statistically in the league but struggled to score goals.[32] 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.[33]

After finishing in second during the regular season, the Kerala Blasters took on third placed Delhi Dynamos in the first round of the finals.[34] The first leg took place on 11 December in Kochi. The Blasters won the match 1–0 through Kervens Belfort's 65th-minute goal.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]

2017–18 season

After losing in the previous season finals, Blasters appointed former Manchester United manager René Meulensteen as their new manager. Blasters released all their foreign players and signed new players including former Manchester United players Dimitar Berbatov, Wes Brown and Paul Rachubka. They brought back their leading goalscorer from the first season Iain Hume. But they had only one victory in their first 8 games in the season, leading to the sacking of René Meulensteen. They brought back the fan favorite manager David James as their new manager . But James either could do much, Blasters managed 5 wins in the remaining 10 fixtures and finished 6th in the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. Blasters had little success in the Super Cup.

2018–19 season

After failing to qualify for the playoffs last season, Blasters made a 3-year deal with manager David James. With a new roster Blasters Looked to bounce back. But they had their worst season ever. They won only 1 and drawn 6 in their 12 fixtures leading to the sacking of David James. After the international break midway through the season Blasters appointed Nelo Vingada as their new manager for remaining 6 fixtures. But team again managed only 1 win and drawn 3 in the remaining 6 fixtures and finished 9th in the league. The Super Cup also was disaster for the club as they were knocked out in the Qualification Round of the tournament.

2019–20 season

After a disastrous previous season.The Blasters are looking for making a serious come back as they've appointed Dutch man Eelco Schattorie as their new manager. They've also released all the foreign players and signed a new roster of foreign players and Indians including Cameroonian, Raphaël Messi Bouli and Nigerian, Bartholomew Ogbeche as foreign forwards and Brazilian Jairo Rodriguez & Dutchman, Gianni Zuiverloon and Senegalese Moustapha Gning as defenders. Blasters have a Spanish duo in the midfield in form of Mario Arques and Sergio Cidoncha.

Team Colours and Crest

The team colours and logo for Kerala Blasters were unveiled during the club's official launch function on 15 September 2014.[38] The club colours are yellow and blue. According to former team owner Sachin Tendulkar, the idea behind the yellow jersey was yellow stands for determination and faith.[39]

According to former team co-owner Prasad V. Potluri, the logo was designed around the elephant, one of Kerala's main symbols, 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.[38]

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.[40] 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.[40] A month later, on 24 October, the Blasters officially announced that German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[41] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 before only Muthoot remained as title sponsor going into the 2016 season.[42]

Stadium

The Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi) in Kochi.[43] The stadium is multipurpose, having been mainly used for football. 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 F.C. Kochin and Chirag United Club Kerala.[44][45] 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.[46]

A panorama of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium during an ISL match day

Support

Kerala Blasters supporters Manjappada in West Gallery

The Manjappada Fan Group are the largest and most active fan group for the Kerala Blasters and the Indian Super League overall.[47] The group was founded in 2014 when the Blasters was formed with the purpose of having all the fans of the Kerala Blasters under one umbrella.[47] Before every match, the group reaches the stadium early to set up tifos, banners, and balloons.[47]

Kerala Blasters are known as the Borussia Dortmund of India for its passionate supporters who turn up in their yellow colours in clubs every home match.

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 led the league in highest average attendance every season 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."[48] "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.[48]

Rivalries

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.[49] 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 led to the return leg in Kochi featuring Kerala Blasters fans wearing masks of Zinedine Zidane and thus intensified the overall rivalry between the clubs.[49] Then the Meetings between these clubs came to be known as the Southern Derby.

Kerala have a long, heated century-long rivalry with Bengal starting from Santhosh Trophy. Blasters and ATK rivalry started from season 1 finals, where ATK triumphed victorious in add-on time. Both Clubs again met in the season 3 finals and again Blasters had gone down fighting in penalties. Thus the match between ATK and KBFC is known as the Indian El Classico.

The Blasters also have a developing rivalry with Bengaluru which started in 2017 before the Karnataka based club began play in the Indian Super League.[50] The rivalry stems from the competition between both club's fan bases, the Manjappada of Kerala Blasters and West Block Blues of Bengaluru.

Ownership

The ownership group of the Kerala Blasters is part of a consortium known as Blasters Sports Pvt Ltd.[51] The club was previously owned by former India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.[51] 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.[52] "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."[52]

Then in September 2018 Sachin Tendulkar decided to sell his Kerala Blasters Stake due personal prospects. Sachin Stated that "A piece of my heart will always beat for Kerala Blasters" after selling his stakes.

Current other investors for the Blasters include film stars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, as well as film producer Allu Aravind and industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad.[51] Before they all became co-owners, co-ownership of the club was held by Prasad V. Potluri from 2014 to 2015.[52]

Kit Manufacturers and Shirt Sponsors

Period Kit Supplier Shirt Prime Sponsor
2014–15 Puma Muthoot Group
2015–16
2016–17 Bay Creations
2017–18 Admiral Sportswear
2018–19 Six5Six
2019– Reyaur Sports

Current Players

First Team squad

As of 12 October 2019

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

No. Position Player
1 India GK Bilal Khan
2 India DF Mohammad Rakip
3 Brazil DF Jairo Rodrigues
4 India DF Raju Gaikwad
6 Spain MF Mario Arqués
7 Senegal MF Moustapha Gning
8 India MF Seityasen Singh
9 India FW Manvir Singh
10 Nigeria FW Bartholomew Ogbeche (captain)
11 India MF Prashanth K
13 India GK Rehenesh TP
14 India DF Jessel Carneiro
15 India MF Darren Caldeira
17 India MF Rahul KP
18 India MF Sahal Abdul Samad
No. Position Player
19 India MF Halicharan Narzary
20 India FW Mohammad Rafi (vice-captain)
21 India DF Sandesh Jhingan (Injured)
22 Spain MF Sergio Cidoncha
23 India DF Pritam Singh
24 India DF Abdul Hakku
27 India MF Samuel Lalmuanpuia
28 Cameroon FW Raphaël Messi Bouli
39 India DF Lalruatthara
42 India GK Shibinraj Kunniyil
51 Netherlands DF Gianni Zuiverloon (third-captain)
55 India MF Jeakson Singh

Out on Loan

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

No. Position Player
India MF Nongdamba Naorem (at IndiaMohun Bagan A.C. until 31 May 2020)
Slovenia FW Matej Poplatnik (at HungaryKaposvari Rakoczi FC until 30 June 2020)
India FW Shaiborlang Kharpan (at IndiaOzone F.C. until October 31 2019)

Other Players Under Contract

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

No. Position Player
Serbia FW Slaviša Stojanović
India MF Arjun Jayaraj
India FW Jithin MS
Serbia MF Nikola Krcmarevic
Ghana MF Courage Pekuson

Current Technical Staff

As of 15 September 2019
Role Name
Head Coach/Manager Netherlands Eelco Schattorie
Assistant Coach India Ishfaq Ahmed
Assistant Coach Australia Shaun Ontong
Goalkeeping Coach Romania Cristian Patru
Goalkeeping Academy Coach & Assistant Goalkeeping Coach England John Burridge
Technical Director Vacant
Fitness Coach Vacant
Reserves & U18 Coach India Renjith TA
U15 Coach India Shameel Chembakath

Statistics and Records

Season-by-season

As of match played 16 March 2019
Season League Finals Super Cup Top Scorer
P W D L GF GA Pts Position Player Goals
2014 14 5 4 5 9 11 19 4th Runners-up Did not exist Canada Iain Hume 5
2015 14 3 4 7 22 27 13 8th DNQ Grenada Antonio German,
England Chris Dagnall
6
2016 14 6 4 4 12 14 22 2nd Runners-up India C.K. Vineeth 5
2017–18 18 6 7 5 20 22 25 6th DNQ Round of 16 Canada Iain Hume 5
2018–19 18 2 9 7 18 28 15 9th DNQ Qualification Round Serbia Slaviša Stojanović, Slovenia Matej Poplatnik 4
2019–20 TBD TBD TBD

Managerial history

Name Nationality Period Note
David James  England 2014–2015 Player-manager
Peter Taylor  England 2015
Trevor Morgan  England 2015 Caretaker
Terry Phelan  Ireland 2015–2016
Steve Coppell  England 2016–2017
René Meulensteen  Netherlands 2017
David James  England 2017–2018
Nelo Vingada  Portugal 2019
Eelco Schattorie  Netherlands 2019–

Team Records

Statistics Include Only Official Matches (excluding friendlies)
As Of 8 September 2019

Honours

Domestic

Runners-up (2):2014, 2016
Runners-up (1):2017–18(Kerala Blasters U18)

Kerala Blasters Reserves

On 20 February 2018, it was announced by the All India Football Federation, the organizing body for Indian football, that the Kerala Blasters, along with six other Indian Super League sides, would field a reserve team in the I-League 2nd Division, India's second division football league.[55] The team began play in March 2018 and is currently coached by Renjith TA.[56] The Team also participates in the Kerala Premier League,a state football tournament organized by Kerala Football Association. The Youth Team also plays in the Elite League.

Kerala Blasters Youth and Academy

Kerala Blasters U18

The Kerala Blasters Under-18 team play in the Elite League (then Youth League U18). The team's best performance came in 2018 as they finished finalists in the 2017–18 season of the league. Best performers in the side have broken into the Kerala Blasters Reserve Squad. The U18 team is currently being coached by Renjith TA.

Elite Youth League U18 Statistics of Kerala Blasters U18
Season Position Top Scorer Goals Notes
2017–18 Runners-up Adharsh AS 8 First Appearance
2018–19 Playoffs Surag Chhetri 9

Kerala Blasters U15

Kerala Blasters Under-15 side participates in the Hero Juniors League(Elite U15) and Kerala U15 Academy League. The U15 side has young kids filtered from all of Kerala and around other states of India.The Young Blasters had a tremendous run in 2018–19 season of the Elite U15 League (Juniors League) when they made it to the semi-finals of the competition. The U15 Blasters team is currently being coached by Shameel Chembakath from the beginning.

Hero Juniors League Statistics of Kerala Blasters U15
Season Position Top Scorer Goals Notes
2017–18 Playoffs Joshua NJ,
Anandu N
3 First Appearance
2018–19 Semi-finals Christopher Rajkumar 10

Kerala Blasters U13

The Under-13 side of Blasters Play in the Hero Sub-juniors League(Elite U13).The U13 Side has a Promising youngsters mainly from the state of Kerala and also other parts of India selected from Kerala Blasters Summer Football Camps.

Hero Sub-Juniors League Statistics of Kerala Blasters U13
Season Position Top Scorer Goals Notes
2018–19 Round 3 Lian Thangkhum 4 First Appearance

Kerala Blasters Football Schools

In association with the Kerala Football Association, the Kerala Blasters announced the opening of 25 football schools throughout Kerala.[57] In addition to the schools, the club announced that they would also hold weekend grassroots leagues for children under-10 to under-16 and the start of a residential academy in the future.[57] The first Football School opened in 2015 at the Ambedkar Stadium in Kochi.[58]

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External links