Can Slavisa do a Hume in Kochi?

Kerala Blasters' Serbian striker Slavisa Stojanovic is an unknown name, but so was Iain Hume before he became a fan favourite and the league's top scorer.

Slavisa Stojanovic's first taste of Asian football was with Israeli club Hapoel Kfar Saba.

Slavisa Stojanovic had a lot of questions for his countryman Nemanja Lakic-Pesic before he landed in India. Pesic, who had played for the Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League last season was ready with all the answers.

Still Stojanovic, the Blasters' new signing from Serbia, was slightly taken aback when he landed in Ahmedabad for the team’s pre-season.

“When I landed in Ahmedabad, I was wondering, what is this? But Kochi is a big change, it’s a lot better than Ahmedabad and I almost feel like home,” said Stojanovic in a chat with Sportstar in Kochi on Wednesday evening. "This country looked very different when I came here but now, it looks good. I can bring my wife. Her dream is to come to India.”

There is a strong Serbian flavour to the Blasters team this year. Three of its seven foreigners are from country, the other being midfielder Nikkola Krcmarevic.

When asked what can be expected from the Serbians at the ISL, the striker whose first taste of Asian football was in Israel said: “Serbians are very strong people, all of us here will give a hundred percent for three points.”

ISL clubs have slowly shifted its recruiting policy from buying marquee players past their prime to signing unkown foreign players, and Kerala Blasters too has followed suit. A team which had stars like Manchester United great Dimitar Berbatov, Wes Brown and the ISL’s top scoring machine Iain Hume, has only unkown foreign names this year.

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Even head coach David James admitted that the names of his Serbian players were virtually tongue-twisters which could make things difficult for the fans here. But there is a bright side too. When Hume landed in Kochi for the ISL’s inaugural season, he was an unknown name. But after the first season, his stardom shot up and he became a fan favourite. James hopes his new boys will turn out to be like Hume.

“Hume did not come here as a superstar. He gave his hundred per cent and the fans understood that and loved that. And that’s what made him a superstar,” said the former England goalkeeper.

“I see a lot of those attributes in Slavisa, Nikkola and Matej and Poplatnik (the team’s Slovenian forward). If Slav does all the things that Hume did, then the fans will love him.”