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ISL: Blasters look to put troubles behind in opener vs NorthEast

As Kerala Blasters approach their first game of the second season of the Indian Super League, against NorthEast United on Tuesday, it is hard to ignore the air of despondency.

football Updated: Oct 06, 2015 17:01 IST
Sumil Sudhakaran
Kerala Blasters players dressed in dhotis during a promotional event in Kochi, on October 3, 2015.
Kerala Blasters players dressed in dhotis during a promotional event in Kochi, on October 3, 2015.(PTI Photo)

The honeymoon is over; it’s time to lose some sleep on the consequence: a hefty credit card bill. As Kerala Blasters approach their first game of the second season of the Indian Super League, against NorthEast United on Tuesday, it is hard to ignore the air of despondency. The heavy downpour only makes it worse.

On field, the Blasters are spread too thin on resources. The marquee signing, Carlos Marchena, who made his name in Valencia and has a World Cup medal to be proud of, will not be taking his place in the defence. He, in fact, may well be in Spain to tend to a back injury. One of their stars of last season, Sandesh Jhingan, and Cavin Lobo, will be on national duty. Off it, there are concerns if the men who foot the bill are in the game for long. The franchisee owners, or, to be precise, majority stakeholders, PVP Ventures Limited, aren’t really having a field day.

The business turmoil the Blasters are in can be traced to the Rs 30 crore fine India’s market regulator, SEBI, slapped on PVP Global Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PVP Ventures, and its promoter Prasad V Potluri. The amount wouldn’t be perhaps big enough to render Blasters, a side with a pachyderm as its logo, a white elephant; the ISL has proved to be a very attractive property to let that happen so easily. But the consequences are conspicuous if one searches for it.

For a start, Marchena, despite his long career in Europe, is not the most exciting of stars out there in the league, even when not taking his age into account. He is 36, for the record. The Spaniard is no Lucio or Postiga. Also, the best player of the maiden season, Iain Hume of Canada -- ISL’s very own Carlos Tevez-esque workhorse – has left, or perhaps was let go, to join defending champions, Atletico de Kolkata.

Then there is a small matter of the pre-season; the Blasters were the only side to have stayed in the country for their preparations for the three-month long contest. Head coach Peter Taylor, clearly the biggest name in the roster, has said the decision was to do with acclimatisation. May be true, but maybe not.

Silver lining

But it’s not all gloom and doom out here in Kochi. To be fair, the Blasters did not boast of a star-studded side last year as well. Then player-coach David James could only do so much between the sticks. Yet, the side made it to the final. Perhaps they enjoy a bit of pain.

“In the agreement it says he (Marchena) is a marquee player. It doesn’t say he will have to play every match. Some matches he plays, other matches he won’t,” said Taylor. His assistant, Trevor Morgan, too downplayed the loss of some prominent name. “Only time will tell. Last year we had Iain, and he played well. Chris (Dagnall) is a vastly experienced player and we have been really happy with what he has done so far (in training).”

To supplant for the lack of stars, the Blasters have a few exciting recruits such as Sanchez Watt. Watt was once touted as the next big thing at Arsenal. But he refused to fulfill his potential.

Perhaps, a player who has lost his way and a club struggling to find its way, could do well together. A bit like the sweetness of lemon after a bite of magic berry.