Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and defender Marko Leskovic addressed the media in an online press conference ahead of the first league match against ATK Mohun Bagan FC, which will also kick off the 8th edition of the Indian Super League in Goa, under closed doors for the second consecutive season owing to the COVID 19 pandemic.
The Croatian center back started the interaction by saying good things about his new team. He said that the team has been having good times and the preseason games were effective in learning and understanding the team before the season, which looks quite positive according to him. He also shared his excitement for tomorrow’s game.
Ivan explained the whole process of the preseason
” In the last three and half months, we’ve been working hard in every possible aspect. In the last friendly games, since we arrived in Goa we were happy that we could hold the whole length of the game. In most of the games, we were dominant.”
He added that there is still a need for improvement in all rounds of the team however, he is happy with the fitness and stamina displayed by the players.
” When the competition starts, we will build up certain details and I think we will be better and better with the games passing”. says the 44-year-old.
“We are very happy with our work. Since we started, probably there was one gap where we were not happy was during the period of Durand Cup in Kolkata. That was the period where we could not control certain aspects and when we can’t control things I rather don’t bother with those things because I want to focus on things which we can control and plan.”
He mentioned that the hard work put out by the boys is impressive, as well as no serious injury concerns suggest that things are going according to the plans.
Speaking about Sahal and Adrian Luna, who share similar positions on the field, the coach said
” Sahal will be playing in the attacking compartment. All the players have to attack and all the players have to defend. Probably, we will be playing in different formations this season and in every formation, all the players will have their roles. Sahal is a player who has the potential who can become a very important player for Kerala Blasters and the national team as well. We are happy with his improvement, his motivation to work hard to improve at every possible level.”
“Luna is also a player who can play in different positions, Sahal as well. Both of them can play in wings, as attacking midfielders, and as strikers. Eventually, we will find the right recipe.” He explained.
Speaking on tomorrow’s game against the Mariners,
“We are focusing on ourselves, how we will play and what are our tasks on the pitch. Of course, during every game, you will have moments where you have to attack and defend. It doesn’t mean that only one team will defend, we will have to sit back, they will have to sit back, this is a football game. We hope to have a very good game of football and try to create things that we will be happy with. We are preparing for all possible scenarios.”
Kerala Blasters boys were with the national team for a brief period and have missed a few training sessions with the team, talking about that, the gaffer said
“They are strong boys, professionals, they indeed spent more time with the national team than us. Sometimes we have the feeling that they are playing for the national team and they are loaning them to us for a short period. But anyway, we are happy with them and their improvement .” He said that they are ready for tomorrow’s game.”
Leskovic spoke about playing with Indian defenders like Ruivah, Hakku, and Bijoy.
” These players are young and everyone wants to learn. They have good physique levels and talent. Only if something I can give them is little tactical movements and I’m very happy with them.”
On being asked about Indian football, he said “The level of football here in India is very good. All players have good physique levels, maybe tactical things are there to learn. I’m very happy and I see a lot of good things in India, the people around the club are very good and I am enjoying it.” He added that everyone at the club helped him to adapt to the conditions.
The game against ATK Mohun Bagan is often heated up by calling it the Indian el-Classico and Ivan shared his thoughts on this
“Tomorrow is a new game and the good thing is that you can have a new game every three days sometimes. You can participate and play more games. In this case, again, this is a new chapter, a new game. All the history and statistics behind us are here to be broken down. We are very pleased and enthusiastic about the beginning of the competition tomorrow.”
He added that even when he was a player himself, he loved to play big games and when young players start playing, they dream about these games.
Ivan clearly explains what he wants from the team and on being asked about the ISL schedules, he said
“My mentality in football is that I want to win every game. In every game, the best team playing. As a coach and as a player both, there were times when we had to play more than 60 games a season. When you start playing for ten months, every three days and you have players going for the national team, when you have a good pre-season, you prepare and have certain good programs, you have your players ready to compete every three days.”
Coach expressed his mentality and he believes that the players should also have the winning mentality throughout the season.
KBFC recently welcomed our new assistant coach Stephan van der Heyden who replaces Patrick Van Kets in the team. Speaking about this new addition, Ivan said
“Stephan is a football coach with a huge experience, he used to work in big clubs for long period, winning titles. He used to work as the assistant coach for the national team of Belgium. He is a former football player who has played at the higher level, in the national team of Belgium and has played in Belgium and France. He is someone who will help us after we parted ways with the coach. We are happy with his arrival and we expect him to be here with us tomorrow and hope that we will continue building up things that we started three and a half months ago. We know each other for a long time since our coaching education in Belgium and we are good colleagues and good friends.”
ATK Mohun Bagan has not played a single friendly game during the preseason period apart from the AFC games. On being asked about the situation, Ivan said
“On a theoretical perspective, It could be an advantage but it doesn’t have to mean that it would be an advantage. Of course, every team has had its own choices. We chose to start earlier because we wanted to check out our youth compartment, we wanted to check many players from our second team, we wanted to get in touch and get to know all of our players, to give time and space to express themselves, by train inning hard and playing friendlies need games to improve things, you need games to see your good and less good points and work on them.”
The preseason matches had different rotations and changes, speaking on that, Ivan said
“When you are in the preseason and are playing friendlies, between those you have the tactical work, physical work and you use the friendlies to give the boys time to improve. It is not about one team, it’s not about one squad, we are here with a large group and everybody is here for a reason. It may happen that during the season, we may need somebody or we need everybody. That is why our goal was to give them many friendlies, many times to play, to rotate, to let them play in different positions because they need that practice to play the competition .”