Bino George is a busy man these days. His team Kerala United FC began their campaign in the Kerala Premier League with a 1-1 draw with last year’s runners-up KSEB. Bino is also the head coach of the Kerala team which will compete in next month’s Santosh Trophy final round.
The Santosh Trophy groups were announced last week and hosts Kerala are placed in Group A, which consists of heavyweights West Bengal and Punjab. Rajasthan and Meghalaya are the other teams in the group. The top two sides will progress to the semifinals.
“The best 10 teams are in the final round. While Bengal and Punjab are definitely among the strong contenders for the title, the other two teams in our group are no pushovers. We have to fight hard,” Bino told Onmanorama over the phone from Kochi.
The Santosh Trophy final round will be held at Malappuram from February 20 to March 6.
Six-time champions Kerala last triumphed on home soil in 1993. Bino is fully aware of the challenge ahead and is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for glory.
“We have spoken to the KFA (Kerala Football Association) about the camp. The KFA executive committee meeting will finalise the details. With the I-League being suspended, we are keen on having a few practice matches with Gokulam Kerala FC,” said Bino.
The 45-year-old, who is the only AFC Pro License coach from Kerala, was the technical director when Gokulam won the I-League title last year.
Kerala booked their place in the Santosh Trophy final round by topping the South Zone Group B qualifiers with convincing wins over Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar and Puducherry. The home side pumped in 18 goals, while conceding just one goal in the three matches held at Kochi.
Despite the dominant show, the Kerala defence looked shaky at times. However, Bino is confident that the backline will get its act together in the final round. “The defence did not have much of a challenge in the qualifiers. Hence they looked a bit indisciplined on occasions. I am not overly worried about it as I firmly believe they will keep it tight against stronger teams and will do the job,” added Bino.