Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters Football Club is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala. They compete in the Indian Super League, since its inception.[1] The club was established on 24 May 2014 and began their first professional season a few months later in October 2014.

Kerala Blasters FC
Official Kerala Blasters FC Logo.png
Full nameKerala Blasters Football Club
Nickname(s)Manjappada (Yellow Army)
Kombanmar (The Tuskers)
Short nameKER, KBFC
Founded24 May 2014; 6 years ago (2014-05-24)
GroundJawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, Kerala
Capacity80,000 (Limited To 39,000 By FIFA)
OwnersBlasters Sports Pvt Ltd
CEOVacant
Head coachKibu Vicuña
LeagueIndian Super League
2019–20Regular season: 7th of 10
Play-offs: Did not qualify
WebsiteClub website
Current season

The club has traditionally worn its yellow home kit since its inception and is one of the widely supported clubs in India. They play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Kochi. The club has held the record for highest league attendance every season, regularly averaging over 40,000 fans a game.[2]

The Blasters played their inaugural match on 13 October 2014, losing 1–0 to NorthEast United. They made it to the 2014 Indian Super League Final in its inaugural season, where they lost 1–0 to ATK after an injury time goal from Mohammed Rafique. They did not qualify for the finals the next season, but reached the final again in 2016. The team again suffered a defeat against ATK, this time through penalties 4–3.[3]

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.[4] On 13 April 2014, it was announced that the rights to the Kochi franchise had been won by former India national cricket team captain Sachin Tendulkar, and entrepreneur Prasad V Potluri.[5] On 27 May 2014, the team's official name, Kerala Blasters FC was unveiled,[6] 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.Sandesh Jhingan was appointed as captain and 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 the 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 were looking for making a serious come back as they appointed Dutch man Eelco Schattorie as their new manager. They also released all the foreign players and signed a new roster of foreign players and Indians including Cameroon born Raphaël Messi Bouli and former Nigeria international Bartholomew Ogbeche as foreign forwards. Blasters beat their arch rivals ATK on the inaugural day of the season. Throughout the season Blasters was hit by injury concerns. Sandesh Jhingan who captained the club for the last 2 seasons were out of action due to an ACL injury along with newly signed Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues. Both the defenders missed the entire season, where Jairo played a few matches in the start. Dutchman, Gianni Zuiverloon, Mario Arqués and some other Indian players were also hit by minor injuries in the season resulting in them missing some of the crucial fixtures. Thus they finished the season at 7th place in the table.

Stadium

The Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi) in Ernakulam.[38] 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.[39][40] 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.[41]

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

Support

The Manjappada Kerala Blasters Fan Group are the largest and most active fan group for the Kerala Blasters and the Indian Super League overall.[42] 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.[42] Before every match, the group reaches the stadium early to set up tifos, banners, and balloons.[42]

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.[2] "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.[43]

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.[44] 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.[44] 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.

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.[45] 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.[46] The club was previously owned by former India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.[46] 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.[47] "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."[47]

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.[46] Before they all became co-owners, co-ownership of the club was held by Prasad V. Potluri from 2014 to 2015.[47]

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.[48] 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.[49]

The yellow shirts and blue shorts were the first jersey worn by the club during their 2014 inaugral season. This jersey was used until the 2016 season. For the 2017-18 season, the Blasters introduced an all yellow jersey with a different yellow shade.[50] Yellow was the primary colour while blue remains the secondary colour which flows across the side of the jersey.[51] This was used for the 2018-19 season also. In 2019, the traditional yellow and blue jersey was returned but the shades remained as same from the last season.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The first kit worn by the club during the early days.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The full yellow kit was introduced in 2017 and used for two seasons.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The yellow and blue kit was returned for the 2019-2020 season.

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.[48]

Kit manufacturers and shirt sponsors

Sponsorship

On 29 September 2014, it was announced that Muthoot Pappachan Group, a Kerala based business group, would be the title sponsor for the Kerala Blasters.[52] The original agreement with Muthoot Pappachan Group saw the company sponsor the Blasters for one season but with the option to extend the partnership further.[52] A month later, on 24 October, the Blasters officially announced that the German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[53] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 .Muthoot remained as title sponsor going into the 2016 season.[54] In June 2019, the Blasters signed a five year deal with Jain University to be the presenting sponsor of the club.[55] The Muthoot group still serves as the title sponsor of the club since its beginning.

Kit manufacturers

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt Prime Sponsor
2014–2016 Puma Muthoot Group
2016–2017 Bay Creations
2017–2018 Admiral
2018–2019 Six5Six
2019—present Reyaur Sports

Current Players

First Team squad

As of 1 July 2020

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

No. Position Player
1   GK Bilal Khan
2   DF Nishu Kumar
5   DF Sandeep Singh
7   MF Rahul K.P.
8   MF Seityasen Singh
9   MF Arjun Jayaraj
10   FW Bartholomew Ogbeche (Captain)
11   MF Prashanth K
13   FW Naorem Singh
14   DF Jessel Carneiro
15   MF Darren Caldeira
16   MF Nongdamba Naorem
17   MF Rohit Kumar
18   MF Sahal Abdul Samad
19   FW V.P. Suhair
20   MF Sergio Cidoncha (Vice-captain)
No. Position Player
22   FW Ronaldo Oliveira
23   MF Ritwik Das
24   DF Abdul Hakku
26   FW Manvir Singh
27   MF Givson Singh
28   DF Denechandra Meitei
30   MF Lalthathanga Khawlhring
31   GK Prabhsukhan Singh Gill
32   GK Albino Gomes
35   DF Naryan Chettri
37   FW Shaiborlang Kharpan
39   DF Lalruatthara
41   MF Pragyan Sundar Gogoi
55   MF Jeakson Singh
  GK Lovepreet Singh
  FW Matej Poplatnik
  MF Surag Chhetri
98   DF Abneet Bharti

Other players on contract

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

No. Position Player
33   DF Vlatko Drobarov (Contract Till 31 July 2020)

Retired Number(s)

Number Player Position Kerala Blasters Debut Last Match Ref
21   Sandesh Jhingan Centre back 21 October 2014 vs Chennaiyin 1 March 2019 vs Northeast United [56]

Notable Foreign Internationals

Current Technical Staff

As of 25 April 2020[additional citation(s) needed]
Role Name
Head Coach/Manager   Kibu Vicuña[57]
Assistant Coach   Tomasz Tchórz[58]
Assistant Coach   Ishfaq Ahmed[59]
Sporting Director   Karolis Skinkys[60]
Physical Trainer   Paulius Ragauskas[58]
Goalkeeping Coach   Bartosz Grosak
Tactical & Analytical Coach   David Ochoa[58]
Goalkeeping Academy Coach & Goalkeeping Consultant   John Burridge[61]
Technical Director (Youth)   Mario Marinică[62]
Reserves & U18 Coach   Renjith TA
U15 Coach Vacant
U13 Coach Vacant

Statistics and Records

Season-by-season

As of 23 February 2020
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   Iain Hume 5
2015 14 3 4 7 22 27 13 8th DNQ   Antonio German,
  Chris Dagnall
6
2016 14 6 4 4 12 14 22 2nd Runners-up   C.K. Vineeth 5
2017–18 18 6 7 5 20 22 25 6th DNQ Round of 16   Iain Hume 5
2018–19 18 2 9 7 18 28 15 9th DNQ Qualification Round   Slaviša Stojanović,   Matej Poplatnik 4
2019–20 18 4 7 7 29 32 19 7th DNQ Tournament Suspended   Bartholomew Ogbeche 15

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 2019–2020
Kibu Vicuña   Spain 2020–

Team Records

As of 20 February 2020

Honours

National

  Runners-up: 2014, 2016
  Runners-up: 2017–18

Regional

  Winners: 2019–20

Kerala Blasters Reserves and Academy

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.[65] The team began play in March 2018 and is currently coached by Renjith TA.[66] The Team also participates in the Kerala Premier League, a state football tournament organized by Kerala Football Association. The young talents from the Under-18 team playing in the Elite League are also promoted into the reserve team based on their performance.

Kerala Blasters Youth and Academy

The Kerala Blasters youth system known as KBFC Young Blasters currently consists of three teams from three different age groups, the Under-18, Under-15 and Under-13.[67] The U-18 team participates in the Elite league which is the top level of youth football in India.[67] The U-15 and U-13 team participates in the Hero Juniors League and Hero Sub-Juniors League respectively. The U-15 side also participates in the Kerala U-15 Academy League.


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External links