Head coach Ivan Vukomanovic has taken Kerala Blasters FC to new heights since his arrival in 2021. 

The Blasters had made it through to the playoffs only twice prior to Vukomanovic’s assignment at the helm of one of the most popular football clubs in India, but since he took the wheel, Kerala Blasters FC have qualified for the playoffs in both the ISL 2021-22 season and the ISL 2022-23 season. In the ISL 2023-24 season, they stand fifth on the league table with 29 points from their 17 games, needing just a point in their next match to seal their place in the playoffs.

In his inaugural season with the Blasters, the Serbian tactician led them to the ISL Cup Final where they succumbed to Hyderabad FC on penalties. 

Recently featured on the "In The Stands" show hosted by Suyash Upadhyaya, Vukomanovic provided valuable insights into his life in Europe, the impact of fans on footballers, and his plan for Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters FC's home matches create a memorable atmosphere for any team that plays there, with a packed stadium. The tactician emphasised how the fans impact the minds of football players, irrespective of whether they are from the home team or the away team. 

“I am telling you now the feeling as an ex-player, the best games, for every player, whether you’re at a home game or away game if you are coming to venues like the Kochi Stadium (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium) if it’s sold out with the fans, it is something that gives you extra power, extra motivation,” stated Vukomanovic in the episode.

He continued, “Every boy, when you start playing football, this is what you dream about. Playing in front of full stadiums, great venues. And that’s why many teams coming here, they say, ‘Okay, now we are going to show them the way we play’, so for us, it’s always hard. But again, being a part of Kerala Blasters FC, we’ve got to deal with it.”

Watch the full episode of In The Stands below:

Vukomanovic has spent quite some time in Europe as a player featuring as a defender or at times as a defensive midfielder, representing teams like Red Star Belgrade, FC Koln and Dynamo Moscow. 

Reflecting on those experiences, and elucidating how such atmospheres motivate a player, he shared, “I know the feeling going as a player in Old Trafford, I was like okay tonight I am gonna rock. You want to play the best games there, you know, in the great stadiums like Dortmund, I remember or something (like that), you want to play your best games. Great games, Champions League games, this is where you show your value.”

“And these things motivate you a lot, like fans, the atmosphere, and Kochi is something special that gives every player goosebumps and extra motivation, whether you are a home team player or an away team player,” he added.

Vukomanovic has displayed a very passionate and emotional side of his when on the sideline of Kerala Blasters FC, which has at times got him into trouble, including a ban at the early stages of the ongoing league season. 

On being asked how he processed the situation, the 46-year-old replied, “Since we arrived here, I completely changed the way I looked at certain things. I stopped complaining about small things that may in the Western part of this globe people complain about. And then, somehow I became more quiet, in a way that we should be positive whatever happens.”

He added, “These things are not planned, that happens, and later you go with it.”

Sharing his plan on how he wanted Kerala Blasters FC to do this season, Vukomanovic said, “This year, our plan, with our group, was to compete among the best, be in the top, stay again there, go in the playoffs and then do our best.”