With magic in his feet and steel in his heart, Adrian Luna is the hero Kerala Blasters FC deserve
Being a Kerala Blasters FC player is wonderful. The fans never leave your back on or off the pitch. There is always a voice that celebrates with you in good times and motivates you in bad times. You are never alone. You are a part of one big family.
Every player that dons the Kerala Blasters FC shirt is touched by the unconditional love of its fanbase and a part of their heart always remains Kerala Blasters FC yellow.
But sometimes, such kind of fandom also brings in pressure. The responsibility of preserving the smile on the faces of thousands of Kerala Blasters FC fans in and away from the stadium that show so much affection to the players can be often burdening on them.
Former Blasters forward Iain Hume once testified how the fans’ expectations can sometimes weigh a player down and prevent him from giving his best, especially in home games.
The Blasters have won just 19 out of the 50 home games they have played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. A win% of just 38 is a big surprise given how hostile the Kerala Blasters FC fans make the atmosphere for the visiting side.
But as numbers show, it can also sometimes hamper the home side.
On Friday, when Kerala Blasters FC returned to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi to play in front of their passionate fans after two and a half years, it seemed once again that the occasion may get the better of the hosts.
A resilient East Bengal FC team fed on this home record and the nerves that it brought with it for large parts of the evening as they were holding the hosts to a goalless draw.
A storyline that we had seen unfold in Kochi far too often, once again seemed like playing itself. But just when an opportunistic East Bengal side would hope to play on their opponent’s frustration, Adrian Luna, who had been the heartbeat for Kerala Blasters FC for over a year but had never got to showcase his immense talent in front of the home fans, produced a moment of magic that hadn’t been in the script for Kerala Blasters FC over the years in Kochi.
Anticipating a long diagonal pass, Luna made a darting run in the space between the centre-back and full-back. Thankfully for him, the pass was perfect and set to meet his run. But with a retreating defender on his heels and a goalkeeper trying everything in his power to make an already difficult angle narrower, Luna still had it all to do.
But if there was ever evidence of any kind of brilliance in the first 72 minutes of the match, it almost always came from Luna’s boots.
And in the 72nd minute, Luna delivered the killer punch. He connected with the ball with his outstretched left. Most others would leave too much power on the shot to see it fly over the goal, but Luna was able to be deft with his touch and send the ball over the goalkeeper, onto the crossbar and into the net all in that split second, under the circumstances and with everything around him aligned to stop him.
Luna had scored. Kerala Blasters FC had broken the deadlock and were on their way to a rare home win that didn’t always appear on the cards all evening. Emotions gushed out all at once from every corner of the stadium. There was ecstasy everywhere. Most inside the stadium had no way to contain their emotions. It was a complete chaos of emotions.
Yet one emotion stood out from the rest.
It came from the man of the moment, Luna, who according to most would have been experiencing the epitome of happiness at that point. But instead, it was a bittersweet moment for the midfielder who rolled up his sleeve to show off his arm that sported a tattoo of his six-year-old daughter Julieta who had passed away in April. Luna then went on down on his knees, sunk his head on the pitch and let the tears roll.
The Uruguayan had been living and playing with this pain deep in his heart all along. At the moment, when he scored to send the packed stadium in Kochi into delirium all emotions came out all at once.
“It was a very emotional moment for me because everyone knows what I am going through. I am very happy that we won and I scored the goal for my little daughter who is in the sky watching me and my family,” an emotional Luna said after the game.
"Really emotional for me because everyone knows what I am going through"— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) October 7, 2022
🗣️ Adrian Luna opens up after @KeralaBlasters thrilling win! ❤️#KBFCEBFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball #KeralaBlasters #AdrianLuna pic.twitter.com/5QNQuLLcJt
But watching him play during the ninety minutes, no one could beyond the silky skills, the tireless running and the willingness to make a difference in the game. He was at the heart of every Kerala Blasters FC move and created four chances on the night, more than any other player on the pitch.
Another great aspect of his performance on Friday night was that he was able to produce this performance when he was earmarked as the main danger man by the opponnent who constantly tried to deny him space.
But Luna couldn’t be kept at bay. Even though Ivan Kalyuzhnyi came on and stole the show with his two stunning goals late on in the game to hand the Kerala Blasters FC a 3-1 win, it was the Uruguayan who laid the foundation for the victory with his stunning goal.
Luna has now created 61 chances for his team since the start of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season with only Greg Stewart producing more in the same time period.
Adrian Luna with magic at his feet and steel in his heart is and will remain the main man at Kerala Blasters FC till the time he dons the yellow jersey. The rest of the Hero ISL better take note.