Kochi: "If you are setting off on a 1,000-kilometre-long trip, always carry some additional fuel on top of that required to get to your destination in order to make your journey hassle-free. A gruelling football league season can be likened to such an arduous trip. Tough preseason training programmes and camps are the fuel that enables a team to cover that long distance comfortably," said Kerala Blasters's head coach Ivan Vukomanovic when asked about the club's preparations for the 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) campaign.
Blasters are in the UAE for the final leg of their pre-season preparations, and the Serbian tactician is confident of a turnaround in the club's fortunes. Although the full squad is not available for the UAE camp, Vukomanovic feels the trip will be an opportunity for the team to set realistic goals and set a positive tone for the season.
Excerpts from an interview:
What do you expect from the pre-season camp in the UAE?
We will be playing three friendly matches during our UAE trip (Blasters began with a 6-0 loss to Al Wasl on Saturday night). Unfortunately, some players will not be able to attend the pre-season camp, but I think the friendlies will give the team quality match practice ahead of the season.
What is the reason for the absence of certain players?
Four of our domestic players are on international duty playing in the King's Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. Some others, who have not fully recovered from injuries, are yet to join the team. A couple of new signings, who have just joined the camp in the UAE, are unlikely to play the friendlies.
How excited are you about the 10th edition of the ISL which begins on September 21?
I'm eagerly waiting for the new season to begin. However, the fact that I will not be present in the dugout for the team's first four matches is a bitter pill to swallow. (Vukumanovic is serving a 10-game suspension which includes games in Durand Cup and the ISL. He was penalised for leading the team out of the ground during the playoff against Bengaluru FC last season, following a dispute regarding a refereeing call).
Will the full squad be ready before the season opener against Bengaluru FC?
I'm looking forward to holding practice sessions with the full squad before the season opener. It is only a matter of time before all the members of the team practice together.
Is facing Bengaluru FC in the opening match a challenge?
Not really. It hardly matters because we will have to play against every team over the course of the season.