Gokulam's win shot in the arm for Kerala football
Gokulam Kerala is only the second team from the state to win Durand Cup, the history of which dates back to 1888.
The great win at the Durand Cup should increase Gokulam's fan base and it should boost the morale of the team management.
Under lights at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday evening, a football fan from Kerala could have spotted a silver lining of hope. The significance of Gokulam Kerala's stunning victory over local giant Mohun Bagan in the final of the Durand Cup cannot be overstated.
Not just because it was only the second time in the 131-year-history of what is the oldest football tournament in Asia that a Kerala team was winning it. More because it is a shot in the arm for Kerala football, especially the club football in the State.
Kerala Blasters, which plays in India's most glamorous football league namely the Indian Super League (ISL), may be much better known and may boast lot more fans, but Gokulam is more of a homegrown club. The great win at the Durand Cup should increase Gokulam's fan base and it should boost the morale of the team management.
And that is important. The promoters who are investing huge amount of money need significant trophies like this one, especially at a time when the I-League clubs are feeling let down by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The importance of the promoters will become more obvious when we think of the plight of the only team from Kerala that won the Durand Cup – FC Kochin. Kerala's first ever professional club, which had triumphed in 1997, was disbanded after its owners discovered that it wasn't a sustainable model. The fate of FC Kochin's successor, Viva Kerala, wasn't any different.
Gokulam, though, is owned by someone with deep pockets, Gokulam Gopalan, one of the most successful entrepreneurs to emerge out of Kerala. FC Kochin and Viva Kerala were formed by a group of businessmen.
The Gokulam management has invested enough to revamp the team for the new season. The team had disappointed in the last I-League after a promising start. It ended ninth, in contrast to the creditable seventh slot on its I-League debut a year before.
The win at the Durand Cup will definitely help Gokulam start its campaign in the next edition of the I-League, which will kick-off in November, in a confident frame of mind. It was indeed an admirable show from the Kerala team in Kolkata.
Riding on a brilliant performance from Trinidad & Tobago star Marcus Joseph – he scored 11 goals including two in the final – Gokulam ended as a most deserving champion. The shock win in the semifinal over another Kolkata giant, East Bengal, had raised hopes.
Spanish coach Fernando Santiago Valera's boys lived up to those expectations, much to the joy of a football-mad State.