After putting Kerala football back on the national map through Gokulam Kerala, Italian head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese is leaving for 'a new challenge'.
Annese announced his decision with a lengthy Instagram post on Tuesday. "..now I look forward to new challenges and explore new opportunities which can be in India or another country," he wrote.
It is understood that the Italian is eyeing an opportunity with the Indian Super League (ISL) having dominated the second-tier of Indian men's football, the I-League with Gokulam.
With Annese at the helm, Gokulam Kerala emerged into a formidable force in Indian football, winning consecutive I-League titles (2020-21 and 2021-22) besides the prestigious Durand Cup.
“With Gokulam I have won every trophy that was there to be won,” Annese told Onmanorama. “But the one tournament I've not competed in here in India is the ISL, so naturally it attracts me,” said the 37-year-old.
Annese said he will announce his new destination in “2-3 weeks”. “At present, I don't have any plans, but I really want to continue in India.”
'Kerala fans will be missed'
All of Gokulam's triumphs have come away from home as Indian football continues to be staged inside bio-bubbles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gokulam did have a trophy parade in Kozhikode last season, but they could not entertain their supporters on their home turf – Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode.
“Winning would have been easier in front of our supporters,” said Annese. “Kerala fans are so crazy, and by crazy I mean in a positive sense. You saw the support for the Santosh Trophy and for Kerala Blasters before Covid. I missed that.”
Leaving a legacy
Annese's mantra has always been to “give the maximum”. “That is what I always want in everything I do. I don't think many realise that in the two seasons that I was here we scored more than 100 goals. This season in I-League we scored 44 goals with 12 different players, I think it is a record,” said Annese.
“I always believe in local talents. I don't want to buy expensive foreign players. All my teams have had more local players than most of our competitors. We put priority on the system. Initially, the boys struggled but then we started winning. We even won some games 7-2, 7-3, and trust me it is not easy to score so many goals in India.
Annese's Instagram post:
In 2020 I came to India for the first time in my life. I accepted the proposal of Gokulam Kerala FC and as a first impression I fell in love with Indian Football. Day by day we worked hard to be the champions of India and this year with a new team we became champions again!
I want to thank the President and the CEO, all my staff and players that worked with me day and night in these 2 amazing years. I am thankful with the All India Football Federation for all the motivation and inspiring words given to me.
We made a historical record of 21 unbeaten games and two consecutive I League trophies and to add, we represented India in AFC cup.
I have seen many talented young players are becoming professional footballers all over India. This gives them the opportunity to be included in the Indian national team. I am proud of this country, and I want to see India in modern football, football that is more advanced and able to compete and make history in every competition.
I will always love Gokulam Kerala FC and it will always be in my heart...
Now I look forward to new challenges and explore new opportunities which can be in India or in another country. I hope to continue to work in India and make the country proud. Each State of India is full of talent!! I respect all teams and supporters.
I look forward to wonderful opportunities and challenges!