Coach Bino George has some unfinished business in the Santosh Trophy. He had guided Kerala to the top of its qualification group after big wins over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh but the final phase in Mizoram last year never happened owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
With the National championship at home this time, the head coach is keen to make it memorable. “It’s a big responsibility since the matches are in Kerala. And since we have players who have been with I-League and ISL sides, I would say our chances are good,” said George, Kerala’s only AFC Pro License coach, in a chat with Sportstar here on Friday.
“But it all depends on the day’s performance,” he added.
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With Puducherry, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar, Kerala appears to be in a weak group in the South Zone qualifiers but George feels it could also be a tricky situation. “It is comfortable to play against a team that plays well. But if you look at teams like Lakshadweep or Puducherry, there is no planning, no system. They (players) will just be continuously running, that team will be difficult,” he explained.
“They can be dangerous, I respect all teams. But we need to win the trophy,” he added.
The current team is better than last year’s side, feels George who is also the Kerala United FC’s head coach. “Last time, we got practice matches against ISL teams but this time we got games only against college-level teams. That is an issue but I think the boys are okay.”
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There are eight Kerala United players in the 22-member Kerala team and George realises that it could raise a few eyebrows. “People will think that since I’m with Kerala United, so many United players are in the team. But only because they are good they got into Kerala United,” he said.
“They were already with Gokulam and Blasters, Kerala United signed them to play in the second division I-League. But when they went there, many of them got COVID that’s why the team could not get into the I-League this time,” he added.
KFA secretary P. Anilkumar added his bit to that. “That was the only (Kerala) club playing in the second division national league so it recruited almost all the best players,” he explained.