Meulensteen singles out Kerala’s fans as their most important asset
Kerala Blasters FC head into the upcoming season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) with former Manchester United youth and first-team coach Rene Meulensteen at the helm. The 53-year-old has previously managed Fulham in the Premier League and worked with arguably the greatest manager of all time Sir Alex Ferguson for 11 years in two spells. His influence brought in two highly successful former Manchester United players in Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown, both of whom he worked with during his time on the red side of Manchester. The Dutchman recently spoke to indiansuperleague.com in an exclusive interview about the latest chapter in his coaching journey.
On his decision to join the Blasters, Meulensteen admits that their raucous and passionate fan base made his decision an easy one. “I've been following the ISL since it has been formed,” he said. “I was close to joining other ISL teams in previous seasons but it never materialized. However, this time around when Kerala came knocking, it was a decision made fairly quick and easy. The main reason for joining them is the many fanatic fans Kerala have, which is demonstrated clearly at every home and away game.”
Meulensteen also pointed out how the burgeoning reputation of the league is creating a stir across the rest of Europe. “I think they are starting to take notice,” he said. “They realize that some really good players and managers have been attracted to the league and that the league is watched by many fans. I've had a few interviews with some high-profile radio programs and they've all asked me about it. Also, the social media is big on it.”
Commenting on his objectives for the season, Meulensteen made his intentions clear. “No matter what competition or league you compete in, it all revolves around winning football matches. So that will be our main focus. We will however aim to play in a certain style that is both successful and exciting to watch for the fans as well. I do feel we have an obligation to entertain the fans,” he said.
As far as his reunion with Berbatov and Brown is concerned, Meulensteen enthused at the prospect of working with the former Man United duo again. “Both players were very enthusiastic about coming to play football in India for Kerala Blasters. As we all know many of the Kerala fans are also Manchester United fans and together we hope we can bring some of that flavor to Kerala. It's great to work with them again as they will bring a lot of experience and quality to the team. We all know what to expect from each other,” he explained.
Expanding on what both players will offer Kerala, he said: “Wes is natural and strong-willed defender who has the ability to play in different positions which he demonstrated time and again while playing for Manchester United. Dimitar is one of those players who I compare with an artist, a painter. Someone that brings color to the game.”
When asked about being in Kerala’s dugout with a sea of yellow behind his players, Meulensteen gushed: “I can't wait!! I have heard and seen a lot about it, so I want to experience this myself. They're the most important asset and weapon we have as a club, something the players will thrive on, I want to experience India and its people as I feel it's a fascinating country with lovely people.”
Having worked with one of the best in the business and years of experience under his belt, Meulensteen definitely has the potential of transforming the already electrifying atmosphere at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into one that could rival that of Old Trafford’s with some beautiful football on the pitch and fervent support from the rafters.