Kerala Blasters FC

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Kerala Blasters
Full nameKerala Blasters Football Club
Nickname(s)Manjappada (Yellow Army)
The Tuskers
Short nameKBFC, KER
Founded27 May 2014; 9 years ago (2014-05-27)
GroundJawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, Kerala
Capacity80,000 (Limited to 41,000 by FIFA from 2017)
OwnersMagnum Sports Private Limited
ChairmanNikhil Bhardwaj
Head coachIvan Vukomanović
LeagueIndian Super League
2022–23Indian Super League, 5th of 11
Playoffs: Knockout
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Kerala Blasters Football Club (Malayalam: [keːɾɐɭa(ː) bɭaːsteːɻsə̆] ), commonly referred to as Blasters, is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala, that competes in the Indian Super League (ISL), the top tier of football in India. The club was established in May 2014 during the inaugural season of the ISL.

The club played their inaugural match on 13 October 2014, losing 1–0 to NorthEast United. The Blasters are the three-time runners-up of the Indian Super League. They first entered the final in 2014, where they lost 1–0 to ATK after an injury-time goal from them. In 2016, they were again defeated 4–3 by ATK, this time through penalties in the final. The club entered the final for the third time in 2022, where they were defeated 3–1 by Hyderabad FC through penalties. The Blasters play home games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. In most of the seasons since the club's founding, Kerala Blasters have held the record for the highest league attendance, regularly attracting spectators of over 30,000 per game. The club share a rivalry with fellow South Indian neighbours Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC, with whom they contest in the South Indian Derby.

The Blasters are one of the most widely supported clubs in Asia and have one of the largest social media following among football clubs from the continent. The club is also known for their fan base, including the supporters group called Manjappada, which has gained a reputational for being one of the most vocal and passionate fan clubs in Asia. The club's crest features an elephant holding a football with its trunk, denoting Kerala's deep connection with the sport. The club's traditional kit consists of a yellow and blue colour scheme, with yellow being the primary colour and identity of the club ever since the beginning.

History

Formation

Sachin Tendulkar, one of the first co-owners of the club

In early 2014, the All India Football Federation—the governing body of association football in India, announced they would accept bids for the ownership of eight franchises from selected cities for the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL).[1] On 13 April 2014, it was announced the rights to the Kochi franchise had been won by former India national cricket team captain Sachin Tendulkar and entrepreneur Prasad V. Potluri.[2] On 27 May 2014, the club's official name, Kerala Blasters FC, was announced.[3]

Indian international Mehtab Hossain was the first player signed by the club, as he was the first one to be picked up by the Blasters during the first domestic draft.[4] The management also selected seven other Indian players for their inaugural season.[5] On 13 August 2014, former England international goalkeeper David James was chosen as the first head coach and marquee player of the team.[6] On 21 August 2014, the club participated in the international draft; the management selected seven foreign players for the team.[7] Michael Chopra, Iain Hume, Pulga, Erwin Spitzner, Pedro Gusmão, Cedric Hengbart, and Raphaël Romey were the seven foreign players drafted to Kerala Blasters. Along with them, the club directly signed Penn Orji, Jamie McAllister, Andrew Barisic, Stephen Pearson, and Colin Falvey in the remaining foreign players' slots.[8]

Inaugural season

David James in England jersey
David James was the first manager and marquee player of the club

Kerala Blasters played their first game on 13 October 2014 against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium; they lost the game 1–0 after Koke scored in the 45th minute.[9] On 21 October, the club's first-ever goal was scored by Iain Hume during their second match, which was against Chennaiyin. Despite Hume's goal, the Blasters lost the game 2–1.[10] The club's first win came in their fourth game, which was played against Pune City; Chinadorai Sabeeth and Penn Orji scored the club's goals, leading to a 2–1 victory.[11] After playing their first five matches away from home, 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.[12] The Blasters qualified for the playoffs on 9 December 2014 with a 1–0 victory over Pune City.[13]

After finishing in fourth place during the regular season, the side played their first semi-finals match on 13 December 2014 against Chennaiyin. Despite not being considered the favourite to win the two-legged tie, they won the first leg at home 3–0 with goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Iain Hume, and Sushanth Mathew.[14] During the second leg in Chennai, the Blasters were about to suffer a massive setback. Despite entering the second leg with a three-goal advantage, Chennaiyin drew the tie level by winning in regular time 3–0. In extra time, however, Stephen Pearson scored the decisive goal in the 117th minute to win the tie 4–3 to enter the final.[15]

In the final, Kerala Blasters played ATK at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. Hume should have given Blasters the lead after 55 minutes, but he took too long alone in front of the goalkeeper, allowing the defenders to block his shot eventually. The match was destined to go to extra time until ATK were given a corner kick in the last minuet, and headed the ball at the near post. As a result, the Blasters lost the match 1–0 despite dominating it throughout the 90 minutes.[17]

2015 season

After the 2014 season, the club announced David James would not return to the club as the head coach and marquee player, and on 12 May 2015, it was confirmed that former England Under-20 head coach Peter Taylor would take over the manager role at the club.[18] The club signed a new roster of foreign players, which includes Carlos Marchena as the marquee signing.[19]

The first match of the season was played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium against NorthEast United where the Blasters won 3–1 with goals from Josu, Mohammed Rafi, and Sanchez Watt.[20] They drew their next match against Mumbai City and then lost their next four matches, which led to the dismissal of Peter Taylor as head coach.[21] Assistant coach Trevor Morgan was in charge for one match before Terry Phelan was named as the head coach for the rest of the season.[22] The Blasters ended their second season in the last place of the league table.[23]

2016 season

Steve Cappell celebrating
Steve Coppell led the Blasters into the 2016 ISL finals.

In an effort to rebuild the team after failing to qualify for the semi-finals in the previous season, the Blasters announced the signing of Steve Coppell as their head coach on 21 June 2016.[24] A week later, the club announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season.[25]

The season began with a 1–0 defeat away from home against NorthEast United.[27] The Blasters struggled early in the season, as they failed to score goals.[28] After the return of C.K. Vineeth from his loan-spell with Bengaluru FC, Blasters solved their goal-scoring issue. He scored four goals from his first five matches which includes a winner against FC Goa and a brace over Chennaiyin FC. In order to qualify for the semi-final, Blasters needed to avoid a defeat against NorthEast United FC.[29] Vineeth's only goal in the 66th minute helped Blasters to beat NorthEast United 1–0 to seal the second place behind Mumbai City FC in the league table.[30]

After finishing in second place during the regular season, the Blasters played third-placed Delhi Dynamos in the first leg of the semi-finals, which took place in Kochi. The Blasters won the match 1–0 through Kervens Belfort's 65th-minute goal.[31] During the second leg in Delhi, the Dynamos won in extra time 2–1, which meant the scores became tied on an aggregate and the match went to penalty shootout where the Blasters won it 3–0 to enter the final.[32] In the final, the Blasters played host to ATK and got the lead early through Mohammed Rafi before ATK equalized soon after and the match went into a penalty shootout. Despite taking the lead early in the shootout, the Blasters lost 4–3; it was their second finals defeat in three seasons.[33]

2017–18 season

After losing in the previous season's finals, Steve Coppell rejected a new contract extension so the club appointed former Manchester United assistant manager René Meulensteen as their new manager.[34] Blasters released all of their foreign players and signed some more, including former Manchester United players Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown.[35][36] Sandesh Jhingan was appointed as the captain and the club re-signed their leading goalscorer from the first season Iain Hume.[37] The Blasters won only one of their first eight games that season, leading to the sacking of Meulensteen.[38] Fan-favourite manager David James returned to the squad as caretaker.[39] The Blasters won five of the remaining ten matches and finished sixth in the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. They were eliminated in the first round of the Super Cup.[40]

2018–19 season

Having failed to qualify for the previous season's semi-finals, the Blasters signed a three-year deal with manager David James. With a new roster, Kerala Blasters had one of their worst seasons, winning only one and drawing six of their twelve fixtures, leading to the sacking of James.[41] This season witnessed the club's rising star Sahal Abdul Samad's emergence as Blasters' mainstay in midfield.[42] After the international mid-season break, the Blasters appointed Nelo Vingada as their new manager for the remaining six matches.[43] Of the remaining games, the team had only one win and three draws and finished ninth in the league.[44] They were eliminated from the Super Cup in the tournament's qualifying round.[45]

2019–20 season

After a disappointing season, the Blasters appointed Eelco Schattorie as their new manager.[46] The club released all of their foreign players and signed a new roster that included Cameroon-born Raphaël Messi Bouli and former Nigeria international Bartholomew Ogbeche as forwards.[47] Blasters beat their arch-rivals ATK on the season's first day. Throughout the season, the team was hit by injury concerns. Defender Sandesh Jhingan, who captained the club for the last two seasons, was out of action with an ACL injury, and newly signed Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues was also injured.[48] Both defenders missed the entire season and Rodrigues played a few matches at the start.[49] Gianni Zuiverloon and Mario Arqués and other players were also hit by minor injuries in the season; they missed some of the crucial fixtures.[50] The Blasters finished the season in seventh place in the table.[51]

2020–21 season

From the 2020–21 season onwards, the management decided to build a new strategy at the club.[52] As a part of this, the Blasters appointed Karolis Skinkys as their new sporting director on 15 March 2020.[53] On 22 April 2020, the club officially announced the appointment of Kibu Vicuña as their new manager.[54] Fan-favourite defender Sandesh Jhingan left the club on 21 May 2020 by mutual consent, ending his six-year association with the Blasters.[55]

The Blasters decided to rely more upon young Indian players and extended the contracts of Sahal and Rahul KP until 2025.[56][57] They signed Nishu Kumar on a four-year deal from Bengaluru FC. The Blasters only extended the contract of Sergio Cido among the foreign players and signed a new roster of them under the supervision of the new sporting director.[58]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seventh season of ISL was decided to take place in 3 venues in Goa behind closed doors.[59] Same as in the previous season, the team suffered an early setback, with this time, captain Sergio Cidoncha suffering a ligament injury on his right ankle during their third match against Chennaiyin FC, ruling out for the remainder of the season.[60] It took the Blasters seven games to register their first victory of the season, winning against Hyderabad FC 2–0.[61] The team was affected by injuries, lesser compared to the previous season. They lost 18 points from the winning position, which includes 4 losses after taking the early lead.[62] The club had the worst defensive performance in their history conceding 33 goals in 18 games and having only 3 wins.[63] On 17 February 2021, after a 4–0 loss against Hyderabad FC on 16 February, Kibu Vicuna and the management decided to part ways on mutual consent. Assistant manager Ishfaq Ahmed was appointed as the interim head coach for the remaining 2 games of the season.[64] The club's fortunes remained largely unchanged in the season as they finished tenth place in the league table.[65]

2021–22 season

After another disappointing season, the club appointed Ivan Vukomanović as their head coach on 17 June 2021.[66] The Blasters started their pre-season camp in July 2021,[67] and played the most friendlies across all ISL clubs prior to the season.[68] In August, the club confirmed its participation in the 2021 Durand Cup, thus competing in the tournament for the first time in its history.[69] After three league stage matches, they were knocked out of the tournament, following their defeat over Delhi FC on 22 September.[70] On 19 November, the Blasters played their first match of the 2021–22 Indian Super League season against ATK Mohun Bagan, in which they lost 4–2.[71] The club won their first season match by defeating Odisha on 5 December by 2–1. This victory was Kerala Blasters' first ISL victory in 11 months.[72] After their defeat in the season's opening match, the Blasters remained unbeaten for the next 10 games, until they were beaten by the southern rivals Bengaluru on 30 January.[73] In between the unbeaten run, the Blasters moved to the top spot in the league table for the first time in 7 years during the middle of the season.[74] After Mumbai City's defeat against Hyderabad on 6 March, the Blasters qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.[75] When the regular phase of the season ended, Vukomanović's Blasters side broke many club records in terms of the number of wins, the total number of goals and clean sheets, points-per-game, and achieved a positive goal difference for the first time in the club's history.[76][77]

With the Blasters winning 2–1 on aggregate against Jamshedpur from both the semi-finals, they qualified for the finals of the ISL for the third time in their history.[79] They faced Hyderabad in the final on 20 March, which they lost in the penalty shoot-out.[80] It was the club's third defeat in an Indian Super League final.[81]

2022–23 season

After an impressive season, in April 2022, Kerala Blasters renewed the contract of the head coach Ivan Vukomanović till 2025.[82] It was the first time that the club has renewed the contract of a first-team head coach in its history.[83] Even though the Blasters' pre-season preparations in the UAE were interrupted by the FIFA ban on AIFF,[84] the club sent their reserve team for the 2022 Durand Cup,[85] in which they reached the quarter-finals but were knocked out by Mohammedan SC from the tournament.[86] The club only retained Marko Lešković and Adrián Luna as their foreigner players from the previous season, as the rest of the foreigners left the club.[87]

They played the opening match of the season on 7 October against East Bengal FC, which they won 3–1.[88] Even though the Blasters lost their next three games, they recovered from the bad run and went on an eight match unbeaten streak and five consecutive wins for the first time in their history in this season.[89][90] By the end of the season, the Blasters won ten of their twenty league stage matches, which became a club record,[91] and ended up 5th in the table and qualified for the playoffs.[92] The Blasters met arch-rivals Bengaluru FC in the first knockout stage match in a new format for the ISL playoffs.[93] The match that took place on 3 March is known for the controversial Sunil Chhetri's goal and walk-off by the Kerala Blasters players.[94] Ivan Vukomanović called-off the Blasters players from the pitch into the dressing room after the referee gave green light to the Sunil Chhetri's free-kick goal for Bengaluru in the extra-time, which the Blasters players and staff deemed illegitimate citing that the Blasters players did not set themselves in their defensive positions prior to the free-kick was taken.[95][96] Bengaluru was awarded the win, and the Blasters appealed to the federation for the match to be replayed and demanded for the match referee Crystal John to banned from refereeing.[97] The AIFF disciplinary committee rejected the Blasters' appeal and imposed a fine of rupees four crores on the Blasters for abandoning the match and asked them to issue a public apology within a week, failing which they would be obliged to pay a fine of rupees six crores,[98] and Vukomanović was handed a ten-match ban by the AIFF-DC from taking part in any AIFF held tournaments along with a fine of rupees five lakhs, and directed him to issue a public apology within a week as well, failing which the fine would be doubled to rupees ten lakhs.[99] The club and Vukomanović then issued their apologies and 'regrets' as demanded by the AIFF-DC, giving a dramatic end to their ISL campaign.[100]

Kerala Blasters also took part in the 2023 Indian Super Cup, which took place in Kozhikode after the end of the ISL season in April 2023.[101] They won their first group stage match of the tournament against RoundGlass Punjab FC on 8 April by 3–1.[102] Even though they won the first match, they lost their next match against Sreenidi Deccan FC by 2–0.[103] They played Bengaluru FC in a must-win match from Group A on 16 April, but the match ended in a 1–1 draw, and the Blasters were eliminated from the tournament, as they ended yet another season without a silverware.[104]

Crest, colours and kits

The crest and colours for Kerala Blasters were announced at the club's official launch on 15 September 2014.[105]

Crest

The club's crest is designed around the elephant, one of Kerala's main symbols, to reflect its place in Kerala's culture and festivities, and to represent the state's sporting legacy.[106] The elephant holds a football with its trunk, denoting the state's deep connection with the sport. The elephant is a symbol of unity, power, and pride; it also symbolises the heritage, culture, spirit, and passion of Kerala, and its love for football.[105]

Colours

Official T-shirt
The club's home shirts during the 2016 season

Since its inception, the club colours have been yellow and blue. Yellow is the club's primary colour as well as its main identity.[107] According to former co-owner Sachin Tendulkar, yellow stands for determination and faith.[108] During their inaugural season, the club wore yellow shirts and blue shorts and this was used until the 2016 season. For the 2017–18 season, the Blasters introduced an all-yellow kit with a different shade of yellow.[109] Here the blue remained as the secondary colour that flows across the side of the shirt.[110] This kit was used for the 2018–19 season, after which the team returned to its traditional yellow and blue kit with the same shades as the previous season.[111] In 2020, a new jersey in the club's customary yellow and blue colours was launched, with this time, the blue coming in the arms. The kit which pays homage to the state of Kerala also had horizontal lines that run along the breadth of the jersey.[112] In 2021, they introduced a jersey in the familiar yellow and blue colors, inspired by the Kerala football team's victory in the 1973 Santosh Trophy. In 2022 and 2023, new jerseys were launched, all adhering to the club's traditional yellow and blue color scheme but featuring distinct patterns.

The club's away colours for the first three seasons were yellow shirts and white shorts. For the 2017–18 season, the club introduced the all-black jersey with yellow stripe on the bottom of arms and shorts and this was used until the 2019–20 season.[113] In 2020, the Blasters launched a new blue away kit with a distinctive pattern.[114] This kit was launched by the club as a dedication to their fans, who were missed at the stands due to COVID-19 pandemic.[115] In 2021, they brought back their black away kit with blue stripes as a homage to their passionate fans. In 2022, the black away kit was retained but featured blue and purple stripes. In 2023, the club introduced a fresh blue and purple away kit.

In 2020, the Blasters launched a contest for the fans to design the club's first-ever third kit for the 2020–21 season.[116] The third kit which had a white and gold colour scheme, designed by one of the fan was released by the club as an honour to the sacrifices and contribution of the frontline workers, who have been relentlessly working to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.[117]

Kit manufacturers and shirt sponsors

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor Back sponsor Chest sponsor Sleeve sponsor
2014–2015 Puma[118] Muthoot Group[119] Bajaj Allianz Air Asia Synthite
2015–2016 Oxigen King's College Suryaa Group
2016–2017 Spartan Kalyan Jewellers Livguard
2017–2018 Admiral[120] Unitac Jio Quaker
2018–2019 SIX5SIX[121] MyG Eastea
2019–2020 Reyaur[122] Jain University Asian Paints Axe
2020–2021 BYJU'S[123] Haeal MosChip Parimatch News
2021–2022 SIX5SIX[124] PhonePe Socios Floki
2022–2023 1XBAT Yakult
2023–2024 Asian Paints

Stadium

The stadium before a game.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi

Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the city of Kochi.[125] The stadium is multipurpose but is mostly used for football. It has hosted games of both the Indian national football and cricket teams, and has hosted National Football League and I-League clubs FC Kochin and Chirag United Club Kerala.[126][127] The stadium was also a venue for the Indian Premier League side Kochi Tuskers Kerala and was selected as a venue for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.[128] As a part of the FIFA event, the stadium was renovated and new seats were fitted and its capacity was reduced to 50,000 and later to 41,000, taking into account security issues.[129] The stadium received the Best Pitch of the Season Award of the League in the 2018-19 season of Indian Super League.[130] In 2019, Greater Cochin Development Authority proposed the installation of solar panels in the stadium, which would make it the first such venue in Kerala and the third in the country to be powered by solar energy.[131]

Support

Fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium during an Indian Super League match

Kerala Blasters are known in the ISL for their fanatical supporters.[132][133] Averaging over 55,000 fans a game, the Blasters had the highest average attendance in most of the seasons they have played[134][135] and it fell to 37,500 in 2017 because safety regulations reduced the stadium's capacity to 41,000 as a part of 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup where Kochi was a venue.[136] According to former India international player Pappachen Pradeep, "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."[137] However Kerala Blasters have seen reduction in the average attendance below 30,000 on two seasons. During 2018–19 season, the Blasters had an average attendance of 16,432 and it became 17,500 in 2019–20 season.[138][139]

Supporters of Kerala Blasters during an ISL match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in 2016

According to Fox Asia, as of January 2023, the Blasters are the sixth most-popular Asian club on social media, becoming so in 2018 within the four years of its existence and were the youngest club among the list.[140][141][142] They are also the most followed Indian club on social media.[143] In February 2021, Kerala Blasters became the first Indian club to attain two million followers on Instagram.[144][145] According to a research in 2021, the club has the joint-fastest growing social media account on Instagram in Asia and sixth across the world in terms of fans interaction among all the football clubs.[146]

Manjappada (Yellow army) of Kerala Blasters

The Blasters are also known for having one of the most vocal and passionate supporters group known as Manjappada.[147] Founded in 2014, they are one of the largest and most active supporters group in the country.[148] The group has also won the award for the 'Best Fan Club' at the Indian Sports Honours for two times in 2017 and 2020.[149]

Rivalries

South Indian Derby

The club's main rivals are their South Indian neighbours, Chennaiyin FC[150] and Bengaluru FC.[151]

Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters have developed a rivalry with fellow southern club Chennaiyin FC from the inaugural season of the Indian Super League itself. Former Chennaiyin head coach and player Marco Materazzi was sent off when the clubs played each other in the 2014 semi-final[152] and was then given a one-match suspension in 2016 after he was involved in a scuffle between a Chennaiyin player and a Kerala Blasters player.[153] This incident led Kerala Blasters fans to wear masks of Zinedine Zidane at the return leg in Kochi, intensifying the rivalry between the clubs.[152] The meetings between the two clubs later came to be known as the South Indian Derby.[154] Bengaluru FC became a part of the South Indian Derby, when they joined Indian Super League in 2017.

Bengaluru FC

The Blasters have also developed a rivalry with Karnataka-based club Bengaluru FC, which started in 2017 before Bengaluru began playing in the ISL.[155] The rivalry stems from the competition between both clubs fan bases; Manjappada of the Blasters and Bengaluru's West Block Blues.[156] The South Indian Derby between the Blasters and Bengaluru is often known as the Real South Indian Derby.[157]

Rivalry with Mohun Bagan SG

The Blasters shares an intense rivalry with the Kolkata based club Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Even before the inception of Indian Super League, the states of Kerala and West Bengal had a long lasting rivalry in the Santosh Trophy. The club's rivalry with ATK started at the 2014 final, which ATK won in extra time. Both clubs once again met at the final in 2016, which the Blasters lost on penalties.[158] In 2020, ATK merged with the football section of multi-sport club Mohun Bagan to form ATK Mohun Bagan.[159] In 2023, Kolkata club's name was changed to Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

Ownership and finances

Photograph
Nimmagadda Prasad of Magnum Sports Private Limited, the parent company of Kerala Blasters

In April 2014, it was announced that the former India cricket captain Sachin Tendulkar, along with PVP Ventures, won the bidding for the Kochi franchise in Indian Super League.[160] A consortium named Blasters Sports Ventures Private Limited (BSVPL) was established to oversee the administration and operations of the club.[161] Tendulkar said that he took a stake in the club because he wanted to help popularise football in India and to see Kerala return to its former glory as a footballing state.[160] In May 2014, he said; "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."[160] PVP group owned 60 percent of the club. In October 2015, Securities and Exchange Board of India, imposed a fine of ₹30 crore on PVP Group for not complying with diclosure terms, pushing the club into financial uncertainty.[162] To overcome the financial crisis, Tendulkar partnered with the club's main sponsor Muthoot Group, bought 40 percent from PVP Group's stake and acquired the majority stake at the club.[163]

In June 2016, it was confirmed that a consortium led by industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad, Telugu film actors Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna and film producer Allu Aravind have purchased 80 percent stake at the club. The 20 percent stake of the club remained with Tendulkar.[164][161] In September 2018, Tendulkar sold his remaining stake at the club to its majority shareholders for personal reasons, stating; "A piece of my heart will always beat for Kerala Blasters".[165] In January 2021, the consortium was renamed as Magnum Sports Private Limited.[166][161] The consortium also includes Anil Yerramreddy, the global CEO of MOURI Tech.[167] Nikhil Bhardwaj, son of the majority shareholder Nimmagadda Prasad is the director of the club.[168]

Magnum Sports Private Limited also owns the Pro Kabaddi League team Tamil Thalaivas[169] and in 2020, entered in a partnership with Serbian volleyball club Radnicki Belgrade to form Radnicki Blasters, which plays in the Serbian First Division tournaments.[170][171]

Sponsorship

On 29 September 2014, it was announced Kerala-based Muthoot Pappachan Group would be the title sponsor for Kerala Blasters.[119] Under the original agreement, the company would sponsor the Blasters for one season with the option to extend the sponsorship.[119] On 24 October that year, a month later, the Blasters announced the German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[172] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 and Muthoot remained as title sponsor into the 2016 season.[173] In June 2019, the Blasters signed a five-year deal with Jain University to be the presenting sponsor of the club.[174] In September 2020, the club signed a long-term deal with Statsports as their performance partner.[175] On 7 November 2020, the Blasters announced its association with BYJU'S, the world's largest EdTech company, as their new title sponsor on a five-year deal.[123] In December 2021, the Blasters announced its association with MOURI Tech, an enterprise solutions provider as official partners ahead of the 2021–22 season.[176]

Players

First-team squad

As of 10 January 2024[177][178]

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

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK India IND Karanjit Singh
3 DF India IND Sandeep Singh
4 DF India IND Hormipam Ruivah
5 MF India IND Jeakson Singh
6 MF India IND Freddy Lallawmawma
7 FW India IND Rahul KP (3rd captain)
8 MF India IND Vibin Mohanan
9 FW Greece GRE Dimitrios Diamantakos (vice-captain)
13 MF India IND Danish Farooq Bhat
15 DF Montenegro MNE Miloš Drinčić
17 MF India IND Saurav Mandal
19 FW India IND Mohammed Aimen
20 DF India IND Pritam Kotal
21 MF Japan JPN Daisuke Sakai
22 MF India IND Sukham Meitei
No. Pos. Nation Player
23 GK India IND Lara Sharma (on loan from Bengaluru)
24 FW Nigeria NGA Justine Emmanuel
25 MF India IND Korou Singh
26 FW India IND Ishan Pandita
32 MF India IND Mohammed Azhar
33 DF India IND Prabir Das
50 DF India IND Naocha Singh (on loan from Mumbai City)
55 DF Croatia CRO Marko Lešković (captain)
66 DF India IND Aritra Das
91 FW Lithuania LTU Fedor Černych
99 GK India IND Mohammed Arbaz

Out on loan

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

No. Pos. Nation Player
2 DF India IND Muhammed Saheef (at Gokulam Kerala until 31 May 2024)
21 DF India IND Bijoy Varghese (at Inter Kashi until 31 May 2024)
81 MF India IND Bryce Miranda (at Punjab until 31 May 2024)
No. Pos. Nation Player
DF India IND Nishu Kumar (at East Bengal until 31 May 2024)
MF India IND Bikash Singh (at Mohammedan until 31 May 2024)
MF India IND Givson Singh (at Odisha until 31 May 2024)
FW India IND Muhammad Ajsal (at Inter Kashi until 31 May 2024)

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. Pos. Nation Player
10 MF Uruguay URU Adrián Luna (injured out)
11 FW Australia AUS Jaushua Sotirio (injured out)
14 FW Ghana GHA Kwame Peprah (injured out)
27 DF India IND Aibanbha Dohling (injured out)
31 GK India IND Sachin Suresh (injured out)

Personnel

Current technical staff

As of 11 July 2023
Role Name Refs.
Head coach/Manager Serbia Ivan Vukomanović [179]
Assistant coach Belgium Frank Dauwen [180]
India T. G. Purushothaman [181]
Strength and conditioning coach Belgium Werner Martens [182]
Goalkeeping coach Serbia Slaven Progovečki [182]
Reserves Head Coach Poland Tomasz Tchórz [183]
U-18 Head Coach India T. G. Purushothaman [183]
U-15 Head Coach India Noor Alam
U-13 Head Coach India Rohan Shah
Scouting Head India Aravind Niranjan

Management

Position Name Refs.
Director of Operations India Nikhil Bhardwaj [184]
Sporting Director Lithuania Karolis Skinkys [185]
Technical Advisor of Reserves & Head of Grassroots Development Poland Tomasz Tchórz [186]
Director of academy and women's team
Team Manager India Manish Kochar [187]
Chief Financial Officer India Mohit Thadi
Chief Marketing Officer India Antony Manu
Chief Revenue Officer India Joby Joseph [188]

Last updated: 26 August 2022
Source: [1]

Records and statistics

Season by season

Correct as the end of the 2022–23 season.

Season League Playoffs Super Cup Other competitions Top scorer(s)
Pld W D L GF GA Pts Pos Durand Cup Player(s) Goals
2014 14 5 4 5 9 11 19 4th RU 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 RU India C.K. Vineeth 5 🇮🇳
2017–18 18 6 7 5 20 22 25 6th DNQ R16 Canada Iain Hume 5
2018–19 18 2 9 7 18 28 15 9th DNQ QR Serbia Slaviša Stojanović
Slovenia Matej Poplatnik
4
2019–20 18 4 7 7 29 32 19 7th DNQ Nigeria Bartholomew Ogbeche 15 ⭐
2020–21 20 3 8 9 23 36 17 10th DNQ Australia Jordan Murray 7
2021–22 20 9 7 4 34 24 34 4th RU GS Argentina Jorge Pereyra Díaz
Spain Álvaro Vázquez
8
2022–23 20 10 1 9 28 28 31 5th ISL Knockout GS QF Greece Dimitrios Diamantakos 12

Managerial history

Name Nationality Period Note
David James  England 2014 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 Interim-manager
Eelco Schattorie  Netherlands 2019–2020
Kibu Vicuña  Spain 2020–2021
Ishfaq Ahmed  India 2021 Interim-manager
Ivan Vukomanović  Serbia 2021–present

Player records

As of 24 December 2023
Most appearances
Rank Player Apps.[189]
1 India Sahal Abdul Samad 97
2 India Jeakson Singh 79
3 India Sandesh Jhingan 78
4 India Rahul K.P. 68
5 India Prasanth Karuthadathkuni 66
5 India Jessel Carneiro 66
Top goalscorers
Rank Player Goals[190]
1 Greece Dimitrios Diamantakos 25
2 Nigeria Bartholomew Ogbeche 15
2

Uruguay Adrián Luna

15
3 India C. K. Vineeth 11
4 Canada Iain Hume 10
India Sahal Abdul Samad 10

Reserves and academy

Kerala Blasters Reserves

On 20 February 2018, the All India Football Federation, the organising body for Indian football announced the Kerala Blasters and six other ISL sides would field a reserve team in the I-League 2nd Division, India's second division football league.[191] The team began playing in March 2018, when it was coached by Renjith TA.[192] The team's best performance came out in 2020 as they won the 2019–20 Kerala Premier League after defeating the reserve side of Gokulam Kerala FC in a Penalty shootout.[193]

Kerala Blasters Youth and Academy

The Kerala Blasters youth system, which is known as KBFC Young Blasters, consists of three teams from the under-18, under-15 and under-13 age groups.[194]

In media

Kerala Blasters were featured in the Manorama's programme 'Blasting out with Blasters', which shared in-depth interviews with the players and behind-the-scenes footages from the club's camp during the 2017–18 season.[195] On 19 November 2020, a day ahead of the 2020–21 ISL season, the Blasters released Yennum Yellow, a musical album inspired by the passionate fanbase of the club across the globe.[196] The album consists of six songs that shows the importance of yellow to its fans and it was the first time in India that a football club released an album as a dedication to their fans.[197][198] A week later, the Blasters also launched the Yennum Yellow comic book envisioned to provide the fans with a fun way to learn more about the club, its history, the squad and the activities being carried out by the club.[199] This was also a first of its kind project in Indian Football.[200]

eSports

The organizers of ISL introduced eISL, a FIFA video game tournament, for the ISL playing clubs, each represented by two players.[201] Kerala Blasters hosted a series of qualifying games for all the participants wanting to represent the club in eISL. On 20 November 2021, the club announced the signing of the two players.

Roster

Kerala Blasters FC eSports FIFA roster
Players Coaches
Handle Name Nationality
A-K-S-H-A-T08 Khandelwal, Akshat India
lokmanyu06 Chaturvedi, Lokmanyu India
Head coach
  • Vacant

Legend:
  • (I) Inactive
  • (S) Suspended
  • Substitute player Substitute
  • Injured Injury / Illness
  

Latest roster transaction: 19 November 2021.

Honours

See also

References

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