Gokulam Kerala FC players and officials have entered the I-League bio- bubble and will be on quarantine for the next seven days. Malabarians had reached Kolkata a month ago for IFA Shield and continued their stay to enter the mandatory bio-bubble for I-League.
The team has already started online fitness sessions conducted by Brazilian fitness coach Djair Miranda Garcia and overseen by Italian coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese. The team will resume its training after the quarantine period.
All the players and staff of Gokulam have tested negative in the Covid_19 tests conducted in the past three weeks. The players and officials will also undergo mandatory Covid_19 tests during their stay in the bio-bubble.
“All the boys are fine. We miss the training but these restrictions are for our safety only. We have already started doing light fitness sessions online with the help of Garcia coach,” said Annese.
“This is a new situation for all of us. Our aim is to keep the players fit and make them match ready. I have asked players to do daily exercises. Online sessions may not be that effective but we have no other alternative,” said fitness coach Djair Garcia.
The team had daily training sessions before entering the bio-bubble and has also played several friendly matches after the IFA Shield. The team faces Chennai City FC in its first match in the I-League on January 9.
Kerala has always been one of the hotbeds of Indian football alongside states like West Bengal and Goa. The state has birthed generations of footballers who have excelled at the national Team mix
The squad’s highlight this season is a healthy representation of local talent. Out of the 24 players, eleven hail from Kerala. Senior players like C K Ubaid will spearhead the game plan, and new players like Emil Benny, Mohammed Jasim, Thahir Zaman and Alex Saji have been promoted to the senior team from the reserve side.
GoalkeepersC K Ubaid ( Kannur)
P A Ajmal (Malappuram)
Alex Saji (Wayanad)
Mohammed Jasim (Malappuram)
Jestin George (Kottayam):
Muhammed Rashid (Wayanad)
Been with Gokulam since its inception
Shibil Muhammed (Malappuram)
Salman Kalliyath (Malappuram): With Gokulam since the club’s inception
Thahir Zaman (Kozhikode):
MS Jithin (Thrissur):
Forward Emil Benny (Wayanad)
The side from Kozhikode has been regularly promoting local players from Kerala to the Hero I-League and as the teams fight for the Hero I-League 2020-21 title from within a bio-secure bubble in Kolkata, Gokulam have collated a strong contingent of players from the Malabar region, which is in north Kerala. As many as nine players – Tahir Zaman, Emil Benny, Mohammed Rashid, CK Ubaid, Salman K, Shibil Muhammed, Mohammed Jasim, PA Ajmal, and Alex Saji – are from various villages from that region.
Defender Alex Saji has been one of the players who has come to the fore in recent times, having been at the club for two seasons so far. While he was playing for Gokulam Kerala Reserve side last season, the current Hero I-League campaign saw the 20-year-old get promoted to the senior squad, where he has already made three appearances out of the five matches the club has played so far.
“I’ve had a very good experience in the Hero I-League so far. There are so many senior players who we can learn from and foreign players as well. It’s a different experience for me and I want to learn as much as I can from them,” Alex said to i-league.org.
Thahir Zaman, who is another product that has come out of Koduvalli, in the Malabar region, is also getting used to life in the Hero I-League.
“The Hero I-League is quite different from the football that I’ve been playing earlier. While playing for the reserves, we played with local sides with local players,” said Thahir. “Here in the I-League, though, there are players from different countries and it’s a lot harder because the quality is much higher. But we are working hard, and we want to beat them all.”
Kerala is a state that enjoys its football and has proved the same with matches in the state seeing full galleries with fanatical support from the stands. While most of this craze for the beautiful game lies in the southern regions of the state, the north has also been producing a number of players.
“Surprisingly, volleyball is the most popular sport back in my village, as is the case in most of North Kerala. But football would come in at a close second, I guess,” said Thahir. “But there are a lot of local football tournaments that take place and they enjoy a lot of popularity. It is because of this that Malabarians feel that there is a possible future career in football and we see so many talented lads coming through.”
24-year-old defender Mohammed Jasim is another player who comes out of the region of Malappuram and has progressed from Malabar Special Police Academy through to the Kerala junior side and has even gone on to play for Vasco SC in the Goa Pro League, before joining Gokulam Kerala.
“There are so many talented players from Malappuram, and many more in north Kerala and most of them come through local football. Now, with Gokulam Kerala in the Hero I-League, all these players have an opportunity to make a jump to the next step, if they work hard and show their talent on the pitch,” stated Jasim. “This will only help football grow in the region, over the long term.”