Kochi: The 12-day international break could not have come at a better time for Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Kerala Blasters who have been crippled by a spate of injuries to key players.
The latest additions to the long list of injured players in the side is forward Rafael Messi Bouli and defender Jairo Rodrigues. The Cameroonian striker was stretchered off the pitch during their last match against Odisha FC after a nasty head-on collision with a rival player whereas Brazilian Jairo pulled a hamstring while trying to control a pass barely two minutes after the kick-off.
Injuries to two of their foreign recruits gave a fresh headache to the Kochi-based franchise, who are already without ace defender Sandesh Jinghan and playmaker Mario Arques.
Head coach Eelco Schattorie, who openly expressed his dissatisfaction at the team’s performance against ATK despite winning that away game, however, could not hide his delight after Blasters held debutants Odisha to a goalless draw in their third home match.
He praised the fighting spirit of his players and said: “I’m proud of my players. They demonstrated the right intent and determination against all odds. Although we managed to get only one point from that home match, I consider it as a victory.”
Blasters are presently seventh on the 10-team table with four points from as many matches. While the Yellow Brigade secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over ATK in the opening game, they lost to Mumbai City FC and debutants Hyderabad FC in the next two matches before drawing with Odisha.
Their first match after the break will be against Bengaluru FC on November 23. The coach is hopeful that all the injured players, except defenders Sandesh Jinghan and Gianni Zuiverloon, will be fit for that away encounter.
Here is the list of five Blasters players who picked up an injury this season:
The first casualty for Blasters in the sixth edition of the league. The defender was ruled out for the entire season with a knee injury barely five days before the season opener.
The injury to Spaniard Arques, who was expected to hold the key to the team’s midfield solidity, dealt a big blow to Blasters’ title aspirations. The 27-year-old, who was one of the standout performers for Jamshedpur FC last season, was carrying a hamstring niggle when he joined the side. The injury worsened during the team’s first match against ATK as he had to be stretchered off within 27 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute. The hardworking midfielder is expected to be back in the side when the league resumes after the break.
The central defender pulled his hamstring and was stretchered away during Blasters’ 1-2 defeat to Hyderabad FC. Reportedly, it will take four to six weeks for the 32-year-old Dutchman, who played an integral role at the heart of Delhi Dynamos' defence last year, to recover fully.
Blasters’ supporters were in for a heartbreak when the Brazilian central back pulled a hamstring while trying to control the ball near the touchline as early as the second minute of the game against Odisha. The anticipated recovery period for his injury is two to three weeks.
Rafael Messi Bouli
The 27-year-old centre-forward rammed into Odisha’s Aridane Santana while going for the ball from a corner and was sent for a concussion test. The Cameroonian is said to be recuperating well and is expected to play the team’s next match against Bengaluru.