Head Coach profile: Kibu Vicuna entrusted with reinvigorating Kerala Blasters FC

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Ahead of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21, Kerala Blasters FC have placed their faith in head coach Kibu Vicuna, who has already proven himself in Indian football. The Spaniard joins the Kochi-based club after a title-winning season in the Hero I-League and will be tasked with leading Kerala into the playoff spots for the first time since 2016.

Even though the Spaniard has already enjoyed success in Indian club football, he’s taking nothing for granted ahead of the new season and understands the competitive nature of the Hero ISL, which brings its own challenge.

“Competition in ISL is very tough. Teams are almost equally strong. Hence, we should maintain top form throughout the season. Reaching the playoffs is all the more important for Kerala Blasters because the team couldn’t get there in the last three seasons. To finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the playoffs is our first objective,” Vicuna said during an interaction with Kerala’s fans shortly after his appointment.

The Spaniard began his coaching career at a young age, taking charge of school and university level teams. In 2002, the Spaniard took charge of the youth setup of Spanish outfit Osasuna, where he also worked with current Chelsea star and Spanish international Cesar Azpilicueta, who at the time was in the club's youth system, among others.

He gained valuable senior team experience as assistant coach while working under Jan Urban at Osasuna before going on to be head coach of several Polish clubs like Legia Warsaw, Zaglebie Lubin and Lech Poznan as well as Lithuanian outfit FK Riteriai.

Vicuna arrived in India to take over the reins of Mohun Bagan AC in the last Hero I-League season and the 48-year-old head coach proved his credentials by putting together a solid unit that was pleasing to the eyes of the neutral. Under the Spaniard, Mohun Bagan AC dominated their competition in the league and clinched the title with the best offensive as well as defensive records in Hero I-League 2019-20.

Vicuna’s success and style of football is ultimately what prompted Kerala Blasters FC’s Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys to secure his signature and it’s a decision that he’s happy with. “Of all the decisions I have taken, appointing Kibu Vicuna was the one I was most sure about. I know the feedback from his previous clubs, he has already adapted to India. I am very happy we finally reached an agreement and now we're working together,” Skinkys recently said.

Kerala Blasters have played in two Hero ISL finals but have come up short of the playoff spots in each of the last three seasons. In Vicuna, Kerala now have a coach who has proven himself on Indian shores while demonstrating his ability to get the best out of his players. And while the Hero ISL is more competitive and comes with greater challenges, Kerala’s passionate fan base can at the very least look forward to a season of exciting and reinvigorating football that could catapult the Blasters to a first playoff appearance in four seasons.

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