Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukumanovic and defender Harmanjot Khabra addressed the media in an online press conference ahead of our clash against Bengaluru FC this Sunday. Both of them spoke about the match, the mood inside the team as we are playing after a break of 18 days amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the camp.
Khabra explained the mood inside the camp after the COVID-19 scare in the team and how the team is looking for the match against BFC.
“I don’t know where to start, even I joined two days back. This was unavoidable I agree, we were not expecting so many players will get affected but what to do, anyhow we have to go with the situation. I think as a player, I can only ask the players to be like professionals and deal, otherwise, we can’t go through. We have a match tomorrow and the mindset has to be like we have to give our hundred per cent, whatever we have to do.”
Ivan spoke about players availability for the match against Bengaluru.”I went yesterday for the first time after fifteen days. We don’t even know, if, for example, tomorrow we have to play kabaddi, then probably we have enough players, maybe 7 or eight, 10 players maximum. It’s weird, a football game, for tomorrow, we don’t know, we will use everybody we can. The show must go on, nobody cares if you are ready or not. From our perspective, whoever goes will try to give a hundred per cent. Will it look like a football game? I don’t think so. We don’t know, probably we will have to keep all the keepers on the bench to have that 14 – 15 player. We will see tomorrow, we still don’t know if we are going to go to the game because, how it hit us, it’s weird. The fact that we had to play our last game knowing that our opponents had positive cases and yet they were saying oh no you have to go and play and the day after that it just started in our camp, and at one moment I stopped counting when we reached above 20 something positive cases, when you have so many infected players and people, then you say, what’s the point. ”
Ivan stressed the importance of everyone’s health as he said” The only thing that we care about now is the health of all of us in our group Almost half of our group got hit by COVID, personally, the second time in my life I had COVID, and then you ask yourself what’s the point.”He added that the team will work professionally to battle the situations.
Ivan also spoke about the post-COVID effects on players. He said” We are like most of the people in this competition, we are only looking forward to seeing the last game in the regular part and reuniting with our families to finish this. We were promised a secure bubble, it was not the case. After everything that happened, many players now have issues, respiratory issues, breathing, running, moving on the pitch,
so, we cannot ask something. Especially, post COVID period is very difficult, even going upstairs and down the stairs, you lose your breath. Of course, we will try to do our best, we are professionals, we are humans also.” He also added that today’s training will decide the availability of players.
Ivan spoke about the preparations for the game “We didn’t prepare our game for tomorrow, because we still don’t know if we are going to play. We had no chance to prepare because many of our players started playing yesterday,
some of them will join us today. We are playing against a team with who we know each other in this competition. We don’t care about the game tomorrow, we are going to play from the professional side, that’s it.”
He added that there are still positive cases in the camp and are focussing on players health and will not be pushing them.
Ivan also mentioned the unconditional love from our fans during these tough times. ” The love that we get from the fans, thousands of messages of support, we love them. The love and support they gave us in the last two weeks are enormous. Guys, we live with you and hopefully, will see you soon playing in Kochi, in front of a full stadium, the time will come soon.”
Ivan explained the bio-bubble life and how COVID affected the team.”The quarantine and bubble, we are used to it. It’s like organised luxury imprisonment. You are sitting in your room, in your hotel, we have our routine, going every day, not every day, last 15 days it was not the case. Of course, when you stop for two weeks, it affects fitness levels, preparation, everything. When you have this kind of situation, you have to modify the puzzle and have to improvise and then we check daily. ” He also added that the routine is heavy, with multiple tests in the bubble.
” If you go around all the teams and ask, most of the players, most of the people they will say look we just want to finish this madness and go home.” He explained that mentally, the team is together with each others company. He also stressed that the team is concerned about injuries due to a lack of practice during the two weeks of quarantine.
” Many of our players came out yesterday from the isolation, they started, it’s heavy, playing games in this circumstance is difficult. Probably many of them will not play tomorrow and in the next period because we don’t want to be that stupid. ”
Ivan on being asked about whether the BFC game will be a challenge.”We don’t think about the game, we don’t care. We are not ready to play football, we are not prepared. Bengaluru is a great team, that deserves to be in the top four and at the end of this season, they will be in the top four. ”
“If we were in a normal stage, of course, it will be a challenge but tomorrow in these circumstances, we don’t care. Not only us, nor Bengaluru, I think that not a single team can play in a full squad because these are the circumstances.”
“Tomorrow, we will just, play the game, do our job and finish with this go back to the hotel, going to February to see what the situation is and that’s all, that’s what we think now.”
Ivan also spoke about the league organisers and spoke about the lessons learnt from COVID and how to move forward.”We also want to congratulate, because people from ISL, they are doing a really good job organising these things, of course, we know, we respect and we understand it’s not easy to have everything under control. As I said, we were promised a secure bubble. All the teams were following all the restrictions, yet again everybody got infected, the bubble just exploded. Now it’s not even the question of who caused the problems, what caused the problems. Now it’s about how we could solve and organise it for the future. ”
He said that it’s not possible to control the situation and exclaimed the importance of learning from the failures. He also added that the teams have respect towards the people who manage the event, understand their efforts and will co-operate.