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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 (കേരള ബ്ലാസ്റ്റർസ്)
Nickname(s)Manjappada (Yellow Army)
Short nameKBFC
FoundedMay 24, 2014; 4 years ago (2014-05-24)
GroundJawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Kochi, Kerala
Capacity39,000[1]
OwnersChiranjeevi, Akkineni Nagarjuna, Allu Aravind and Nimmagadda Prasad
CEOVarun Tripurneni
Head coachNelo Vingada
LeagueIndian Super League
2017–18Regular season: 6th of 10
Finals: Did not qualify
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Kerala Blasters Football Club is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala. Kerala Blasters is one of the ten teams to have been part of the Indian Super League (ISL) since its inception.[2] They play in the league under license 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.

The Blasters host their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The team has held the record for highest league attendance every season, regularly averaging over 55,000 fans a game.[3][4]

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 goal from Mohammed Rafique saw Kerala Blasters lose 1–0 to Atlético de Kolkata and it became a heartbreaking loss for the Keralans . The team did not qualify for the finals the next season, but they 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.[5]

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).[6] 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 Prasad V Potluri.[7] On 27 May 2014, the team's official name, 'Kerala Blasters FC' was unveiled which was based on the nickname of co-owner Tendulkar, the "Master Blaster".[8]

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.[9] India international Mehtab Hossain was the first draft pick made by Kerala Blasters.[10] 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.[11]

On 13 August 2014, former England international goalkeeper, David James, was chosen as the first head coach and marquee player of the team.[12] On 21 August 2014, the team participated in the international draft where the management selected seven foreign players.[13] Former Newcastle United forward Michael Chopra was the first foreign player drafted by the Kerala Blasters.[14]

Inaugural season

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

The Kerala Blasters played their first match on 13 October 2014 against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. The Blasters lost 1–0 after Koke scored the only goal of the match in the 45th minute.[15] 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.[16] 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 led the Blasters to a come from behind 2–1 victory.[17]

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 the Blasters to a home-debut 1–0 victory over the Goans in front of 49,517 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] 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 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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23] New foreign signings coming into the season included Peter Ramage, Stephen Bywater, Bruno Perone, Sanchez Watt, João Coimbra, and marquee signing Carlos Marchena.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26] Assistant coach Trevor Morgan was in charge for one match before Terry Phelan was named head coach for the rest of the season.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29] A week later, the club announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season.[30] 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.[31]

The season began where the previous left off, with a 1–0 defeat away from home against NorthEast United.[32] After the first month of the season, the Blasters had one of the best defenses statistically in the league but struggled to score goals.[33] 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.[34]

After finishing in second during the regular season, the Kerala Blasters took on third placed Delhi Dynamos in the first round of the finals.[35] The first leg took place on 11 December in Kochi. The Blasters won the match 1–0 through Kervens Belfort's 65th-minute goal.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38]

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.[39] The club colours are yellow and blue.

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.

— Sachin Tendulkar, Kerala Blasters majority owner[40]

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."[39]

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.[41] 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.[41] A month later, on 24 October, the Blasters officially announced that German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[42] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 before only Muthoot remained as title sponsor going into the 2016 season.[43]

Stadium

The Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi) in Kochi.[44] The stadium is multipurpose, having been mainly used for both 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 .[45][46] 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.[47]

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

Support and rivalries

Kerala Blasters supporters

The Manjappada Fan Group are the largest and most active fan group for the Kerala Blasters and the Indian Super League overall.[48] 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.[48] Before every match, the group reaches the stadium early to setup tifos, banners, and balloons.[48]

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.[4] 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."[49] "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.[49]

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.[50] 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.[50]

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.[51] The rivalry stems from the competition between both club's fan bases, the Manjappada of Kerala Blasters and West Block Blues of Bengaluru.[51]

Ownership

The ownership group of the Kerala Blasters is part of a consortium known as Blasters Sports Pvt Ltd.[52] The club's majority owner is former India cricket team star Sachin Tendulkar.[52] 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.[53] "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."[53]

Current other investors for the Blasters include film stars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, as well as film producer Allu Aravind and industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad.[52] Before they all became co-owners, co-ownership of the club was held by Prasad V. Potluri from 2014 to 2015.[53]

Kit manufacturers and shirt sponsors

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
2014—2016 Puma Muthoot Pappachan Group
2016—2017 Spartan
2017—2018 Admiral
2018—present Six5Six


Coaching staff

Position Name
Head Coach Portugal Nelo Vingada
Assistant Coach Portugal Joao Arnaldo Carvalho
Assistant Coach India Thangboi Singto
Goalkeeping Coach England Rory Grand

Players

First team squad

As of 29 October 2018.[54]

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 Dheeraj Singh
4 Serbia DF Nemanja Lakić-Pešić (vice-captain)
6 Serbia MF Nikola Krčmarević
7 France DF Cyril Kali
8 Serbia FW Slaviša Stojanović
9 India FW Seiminlen Doungel
10 Slovenia FW Matej Poplatnik
11 India FW Prasanth Karuthadathkuni
12 India DF Mohammad Rakip
15 India DF Anas Edathodika
17 Uganda MF Kizito Keziron
18 India MF Sahal Abdul Samad
20 India MF Deependra Negi
No. Position Player
21 India DF Sandesh Jhingan (captain)
22 India MF Zakeer Mundampara
23 India DF Pritam Singh
25 India GK Sujith Sasikumar
28 India GK Lalthuammawia Ralte
30 India MF Baoringdao Bodo ( on loan from Chennaiyin FC)
33 India MF Jithin MS
34 India MF Suraj Rawat
35 India MF Hrishi Dhath
39 India DF Lalruatthara
99 Ghana MF Courage Pekuson
India MF Nongdamba Naorem

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
13 India MF C. K. Vineeth (to Chennaiyin FC)
19 India MF Halicharan Narzary (to Chennaiyin FC)
- India MF Jeakson Singh Thounaojam (to Indian Arrows)

Former players

Statistics and records

Season-by-season

As of match played 6 April 2018
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 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 18 6 7 5 20 22 25 6th DNQ Round of 16 Canada Iain Hume 5

Head coaches record

As of match played 15 February 2019
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 18 December 2018 23 6 9 8 26 22 026.09
Nelo Vingada  Portugal 18 January 2019 4 1 2 1 6 5 025.00

Team records

Statistics below are for all-time leaders as of 1 March 2018.

Asian clubs ranking

As of 13 January 2019.[57]
Current Rank Country Team
246 Indonesia Persik Kediri
247 Qatar Al-Markhiya Sports Club
248 Uzbekistan FC Neftchi Fergana
249 Lebanon Salam Zgharta
250 India Kerala Blasters

Youth development

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.[58] The team began play in March 2018 and is currently coached by Renjith TA.[59]

Kerala Blasters Football Schools

In association with the Kerala Football Association, the Kerala Blasters announced the opening of 25 football schools throughout Kerala.[60] 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.[60] The first Football School opened in 2015 at the Ambedkar Stadium in Kochi.[61]

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External links