Kibu Vicuna: Fans are Kerala’s biggest strength and we need to leverage that

Kibu Vicuna’s appointment as the new Kerala Blasters FC head coach on Wednesday marked the beginning of a new era for the Kochi-based club. For the past three seasons, the 2014 and 2016 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) finalists have failed to make it to the Hero ISL semifinals and fans will be hoping that Vicuna’s arrival can finally turn the tide and get them back to their promised land.

Coming in on the back of a Hero I-League 2019-20 triumph with his former team Mohun Bagan, the onus will be on the 48-year-old to meet these expectations. It seems like the Spain-born head coach has already begun drafting his blueprint for success and has a starring role set aside for Kerala’s famed fanbase in it.

Connect to the fans

“Kerala have a great support base and we have to take advantage of that. We have to create a good connection between the team and the fans. It’s very important for us. We have to play well and do our jobs to create that,” Vicuna opined in a recent interactive session with Kerala’s Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys.

“To create a strong team, we need the fans’ help. The incredible fanbase and the foundation they provide are Kerala Blasters’ biggest strengths and we will need their help. My message to the fans will be to back us fully,” the newly-appointed head coach added, illustrating the impact he thinks the fans can have in shaping the team’s future

Looking forward, the 48-year-old noted, “I feel very honoured to be the new Kerala Blasters head coach. I am happy and excited to start my new journey as a coach. Kerala Blasters are one of the best teams in the Hero ISL and it’s a privilege to be here.”

Joining Kerala was an easy decision: Vicuna

Asked what led him to pick Kerala as his new challenge, Vicuna revealed, “For me, it was a very simple decision to take up Kerala’s offer. I talked with the management, and everything was good. I think we can do very good things here. We have to build a good team and play some good football. The results, hopefully, will follow.”

Vicuna’s appointment was met with a lot of enthusiasm among Kerala fans, who not only took to social media to express their delight but also contacted the new gaffer over personal messages to roll out the red carpet. Addressing the affection and warmth he received from the fans, the former Osasuna youth coach noted, “I want to thank everyone for welcoming me with so much warmth. I will try my best to respond to the love and affection I am getting. I hope the fans can be proud of the team we build.”

Style of football…

On the style of football fans can expect from him, Vicuna noted, “I like offensive football. I like my team to control the pace of the game, recover the ball as soon as possible if we lose it. It’s a style that may take a little time to implement but with the players we have and the team we will be building, I hope we can do it.”

He also hinted a sharp focus on nurturing young talents from the youth setups and bringing them into the squad eventually. “I think one of the important aspects we need to improve are the academies. At Kerala, we have to work with the academies, the second team. We need to make sure the next generation is ready to step up. I want to create a good academy at Kerala and bring through good young players. There’s a lot of potential in India.”

Vicuna is taking over the reins from former boss Eelco Schattorie, who, too, was a propagator of attacking football, and helmed the team during Hero ISL 2019-20. Asked what differences fans can expect compared to previous seasons, Vicuna stated, “To talk about changes, I need to talk about what it was like before. I don’t like to talk about what other coaches have done. I am sure they did a fantastic job. For me, it’s important to train hard and do our 100%. We need to approach games with a tactical mindset and give it our all.”

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