One of the fascinating stories from the last edition of the I-League was the great comeback by Gokulam FC Kerala. Perhaps it is only fitting that the new season begins with a comeback for the man who authored the turnaround story of the Kozhikode-based club.
Coach Bino George, who was surprisingly removed from the post despite taking the newly-formed team to the Super Cup, is back at the helm. “Of course I am delighted to return to a job in which I worked with great passion,” he told Sportstar. “To be honest, I was feeling very disappointed when the club decided to replace me with Fernando Valera.”
The Spanish coach's sojourn proved to be a short one in Kerala, though. The club wasn't exactly happy with him, especially after the loss to Bengaluru FC in the friendly.
Though a decision was taken to part ways with Valera, Bino wasn't the unanimous choice of the club, which had considered bringing in another foreign coach, according to sources.
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But, the Gokulam's president had V.C. Praveen felt Bino would be the best man for the job. “The president had a lot of faith in me,” Bino said. “It was because of his persuasion that I had stayed back at the club, as the technical director, when Valera was appointed.”
Bino, however, was considering a move to a Dubai club, disappointed that he could not be in charge of Gokulam, a team he built from the scratch. “Nobody had believed me when I said that I would take Gokulam to the Super Cup, especially after we losses six matches in row,” he said.
“And we went on to stun ISL side NorthEast United FC.”
He is confident that the team could carry on from it left off when the new season kicks off next month. But, he admits it would be tough to find replacement of two key men — playmaker Mahmood Al-Ajmi from Bahrain and Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka — who were instrumental in turning the team into a giant-killer.
“We could not have stopped Al-Ajmi leaving for Thailand and Kisekka for Mohun Bagan; we could not have afforded them,” he said.
“I am glad that they blossomed under me at Gokulam. I am looking for more such talents through my contacts in different countries.”
“My aim is to finish inside the top three in the I-League this season,” he said.
This time around, not everyone is going to disbelieve him.