Gokulam Kerala and head coach Varela part ways

Santiago Varela
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Kozhikode: I-League Club Gokulam Kerala FC have parted ways with Spanish head coach Santiago Varela after the two parties failed to reach an agreement on the remuneration package for the upcoming season.

Also, it is learnt that the team management was far from pleased with the team’s performance in the I-League last season.

In fact, the 47-year-old had made an instant impression at the Kozhikode-based club. Under his guidance, Gokulam created history last year by winning the Durand Cup, defeating heavyweights Mohun Bagan in the final in Kolkata.

It was Varela’s first assignment in his second term as Gokulam Kerala head coach as the Malabarians became only the second team from Kerala to win the oldest competition in Asia after FC Cochin who won it in 1997.

Varela had stayed back in Kozhikode during the COVID-19 lockdown period before he returned home four days ago on a special flight arranged by the Spanish government from New Delhi.

Gokulam is learnt to have cast their net wide in the hunt for a new gaffer and some of the potential candidates to replace Varela include an overseas coach with prior experience in India and two Indian coaches.

The Spaniard had a brief stint with Gokulam in the 2018-19 season ago but was released from the club on request due to personal reasons before the I-League season started. He was with the team for two months during the pre-season training.

Varela returned for a second term in last July, taking over from Gift Raikhan, who went back to Neroca FC after joining Gokulam midway through the I-League, replacing Bino George.

Fine achievement
Gokulam became the second Kerala team to win the Durand Cup last year. File photo: PTI

The club management was expecting the team to secure at least the second spot in the last I-League, but Gokulam could manage only a sixth-place finish in the 11-team league with 22 points from 16 outings, winning six matches and losing five.

Second home ground

Meanwhile, the Gokulam management is said to be considering to conduct the team’s home matches in the Youth I-League and the Kerala Premier League at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri. As part of the plan, the club will sign a three-year contract with the Malappuram District Sports Council which manages the stadium. There are also plans to hold at least three of Gokulam’s home games in the next I-League in Manjeri.

To begin with, the club will play friendly and exhibition matches at the new venue. The officials of the franchise held discussions with Malappuram District Sports Council president A Sreekumar on Monday.

"We will seek All India Football Federation’s permission to conduct I-League matches at the Payyanad stadium," said Gokulam FC president V C Praveen.

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