Gokulam Kerala FC reaps the rewards of hard work | Soccer News

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The founding philosophy of Gokulam Kerala FC was to become a champion team. While it’s not an easy thing to do, Gokulam has delivered on his word, not once but twice now in the most competitive league they’ve been involved in, the I-League.
It has been a trophy-laden five years for Gokulam as their men’s and women’s teams have delivered a Durand Cup, an Indian Women’s League crown, two Kerala Premier League titles in addition to the two I-League titles in their trophy cabinet in Kozhikode.
Of all their accomplishments to date, defending the I-League title this season might be the most significant. “I think winning the I-League title is a bad omen. Many teams failed miserably to defend their title the following season. We even saw former champions fall back after winning the title,” said Praveen.
Gokulam’s title defense has been made arduous after losing 13 of his championship-winning players from last season. Nine new faces came – most of them from their reserve team. “Our head coach was worried about losing so many players,” recalls Praveen.
“We started our pre-season early and added and subtracted to find the right balance,” Praveen said. The signing of proven goalscorer Luka Majcen, for example, when the league was suspended in January proved particularly decisive.
“We had experienced players who made the difference in every department. But what was impressive was how we adapted to the opponents. We knew each team’s weaknesses and how to attack and defend against them” , said coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese.
“In my second season here, I also started to understand Indian football better. Not only me, our captain Sharif Mukhammad, Aminou Bouba, Majcen and others also had time to settle in. It made a little difference this time.”, Annese talked about her second season.
Gokulam’s latest triumph came at a time when Kerala football is at its peak. State just won the Santosh Trophy, Kerala Blasters finished runners-up in the Indian Super League, Calicut University are All-India Inter-College Champions and MG University just won the University Games football crown from Khelo India.
“People used to ask me in disbelief why we haven’t had a Kerala club in the I-League for some time. Gokulam is the answer to that question. Winning the I-League is not easy but doing it twice straight away needs a lot of dedication from players, coaches and management,” said Sushanth Mathew, captain of Gokulam in their first season.
Gokulam’s quest for titles is set to continue, especially with promotion to ISL in sight for next season’s I-League winners. “As I said earlier, if we play in the ISL we will be competitive. We just have to be smart with our signings and we can have a good team to play in the ISL,” Praveen said.
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