If the last ISL season was one of despair for Kerala Blasters, this is one of hope. Despite a glorious start to its campaign, with a 2-0 win against two-time champion ATK in the opening encounter, the team went through some horrifying times and finished second from the bottom.
From sacking the coach midway to facing the wrath of their loyal fans who called for — and effected — a boycott for some home matches, the Blasters saw it all. But all that will be forgotten if the team can put up a fine show in the sixth edition of the league. Chances for that look bright, too. A revamped side under a new coach could sometimes work wonders for a club, especially when it is trying to bounce back.
Eelco Schattorie could well prove to be an inspired choice as coach.
The Dutchman had taken Northeast United to the play-offs for the first time in the ISL history last year. He has also brought in Bartholomew Ogbeche from his previous team.
The Nigerian World Cupper, who replaces Sandesh Jhingan as captain, should sharpen up the Blasters frontline; he was the second leading scorer in the last ISL.
The coach would also be hoping that his Cameron recruit Raphael Messi Bouli will live up to his middle name, up front. Veteran striker Mohammed Rafi, who returns to his native Kerala, is capable of doing damage though it remains to be seen if he will start every time. The arrival of the Spanish duo, Mario Arques and Sergio Cidoncha, from Jamshedpur, could make the midfield more creative.
The team, however, could very well miss the injured Jinghan’s leadership in defence.