Home discomfort to home delight: Kerala Blasters FC have made Kochi a fortress
The Blasters have lost just once in their last 11 home matches and have based their playoff bid on their home form.
The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi has been a sight to behold every time Kerala Blasters FC have set foot on it since the beginning of the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2014.
The sea of yellow that the Kerala Blasters FC faithful create during every match has won admirers far beyond Kerala and even India.
Kerala Blasters FC’s home ground produces one of the best atmospheres in the ISL and both the KBFC and opponent players have vouched for it.
However, the home side haven’t always been able to profit from it. Kerala Blasters FC have traditionally struggled at the venue despite such a strong backing. The Yellow Army have won just 28 out of the 64 ISL matches at the venue which is approximately 44% of the matches.
However, since the start of last season, Kerala Blasters FC have significantly turned their fortunes at Kochi around and now rely on their home games to fuel their playoffs charge.
The most obvious difference between previous seasons and the two campaigns is the presence of head coach Ivan Vukomanovic in the Kerala Blasters FC dugout. The Serbian has managed to connect with the fans like no other coach in the past and that warmth has transferred to the players.
Vukomanovic has also been very clever in terms of the way he has set his team up and how they play their football. The biggest characteristic of the Kerala Blasters FC team under him is the intensity with which they play their football.
In an atmosphere like the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium where thousands of fans cheer every move you make, it becomes easier to sustain that intensity longer than what you would otherwise.
“In this kind of stadium and environment, with the atmosphere, the players enjoy it, they give everything they have,” Vukomanovic had said ahead of his first match on the sidelines after his ban.
Kerala Blasters FC have lost just once in their last eleven matches at the venue, winning nine of those matches.
Under Vukomanovic, Kerala Blasters FC have emerged victorious in ten out of the 14 home matches boasting a win percentage of 71.4%.
Before the start of last season, Kerala Blasters FC had won just 18 out of the 50 home matches in the ISL with a win% of 36%.
The credit must also go to the fans for sticking with their team during the tough times. They are now enjoying one of the more successful periods in the team’s history with the Blasters making the knockout stages for two consecutive seasons for the first time in ISL 2021-22 and 2022-23.
The start to the 2023-24 season has also been impressive with the Blasters sitting second in the table with 13 points in six matches. The good start to the season is largely based on their home form and if they can keep it going, they could have a great chance of reaching the knockout stage of the league for a third season running.
Kochi for long has been threatening to be a fortress. But the Blasters teams of the past have often suffered under the weight of expectations. This Kerala Blasters FC team under Ivan Vukomanovic though draws energy from the crowd and their expectations.
Kochi, which was once Kerala Blasters FC’s weakness is now their strength. And that’s how it should be.