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ISL 2019-20 | Why your team sucked this week ft. Kerala Blasters FC

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ISL

ISL 2019-20 | Why your team sucked this week ft. Kerala Blasters FC

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Subhayan Dutta

10/28/2019

To put it simply, “to suck”, an American slang, is used to criticize a person, or an entity, in a condescending manner. And Kerala Blasters have deserved every letter of it, after their opening week in the Indian Super League. However, it isn’t because of their win or the loss, but everything else.

I ain’t a Kerala Blasters fan but I’ve always had respect for the side even when they were shit last season, because of their passionate fans. But, that was only until the first match of the league this season. I also had respect, albeit for a brief period, for Eelco Schattorie for his seemingly vast knowledge. It has turned into dust too, especially after his last two post-match press conferences and shenanigans.

After the stuffy transfer season they had, which included robbing NorthEast United FC off their coach and star striker, the Blasters were the team to watch out for. After Manjappada’s protest amidst Blasters’ pathetic performance last season, which saw a lack of footfall in Kochi and TV viewership drop, the administrators had realized what they sold. The pre-season hype was real this time and they decided to capitalize on that by scheduling back to back home games in Kochi within a span of five days.

It was understood to a large extent, given the tumultuous few months the management had to endure before the season started, and it could have been excusable if it was limited to just scheduling matches for Kerala. But, they have seemingly taken a step further – they always do – and it was clearly reflected in their first home win against ATK. 

Refereeing have always been pathetic in ISL, with just a fingerful of good referees in their service, but what Kochi saw has embarrassed the entire referees' association. A string of horrendous decisions in the season opener, which looked more of a fan-appeasement than anything else, strangled the excitement out of the competition altogether. 

The Kolkata-based side saw a clear onside goal given as offside, and a legitimate penalty not awarded in the first half, before the linesman decided to turn a blind eye at Moustapha Gning’s handball inside the box in the second. A backlash after such a controversial game was highly expected, but it was repartee that was surprising.

It was further exacerbated by a video posted on social media by Michael Soosairaj. The winger was brought down in the box by Jairo Rodrigues as he burst into KBFC penalty area on the 27th minute, but the referee had decided to waive off his penalty call.

The “pragmatic” Kerala Blasters fans, who had decided to walk out of the stadium last season because of David James’ negative football, now somehow seemed content with the way they won. And taking the circus to magnanimous proportions was their own coach Eelco Schattrie. After the learned Dutchman’s voice blabbered something like “I don’t think ATK were dangerous”, he was bound to face scathing criticism. He further went on to prove his point, something he has rarely done in the past, by putting up match stats on social media.

The tremendous pressure upon him was already telling for the last time a respected manager decided to publicly take shelter behind numbers to justify his decisions was Jose Mourinho, ahead of a Premier League match against Watford last season, to defend the game time given to Marcus Rashford. We all know how his stint ended.

ISL management, however, didn’t bother to look into the situation anyway, because negative publicity is also publicity, right? 

Given the knowledge that Schattorie possesses about the game, one would have expected him to foresee the danger that was coming. He was right to acknowledge that his defence struggled to deal with set-pieces but he intentionally hid the fact that they were equally vulnerable from open play as well, to keep the fans blindsided. I hope he hasn’t started believing it himself as well for the consequence in the next fixture hinted at the same.

Kerala were more dangerous offensively against Mumbai but the threat was always looming large. And Amine Chermiti’s 82nd-minute goal, which was from an open play, was very late even for the officials to give any kind of help.

However, Kerala are definitely not the worst side of the first week so far, as they sit sixth on the table with three points. But, while Odisha FC have lost both their matches from promising positions and Hyderabad FC opened their campaign with a 5-0 loss, which makes their concerns graver than that of Kerala, one didn’t expect the newer entrants to burst on to the scene anyway.

Kerala Blasters, in fact, would again be the favourites to win when they travel to Hyderabad on Saturday, given the names they have on paper. However, names don’t guarantee wins in football and that’s okay. What’s not okay is chuckleheaded snobbery at the face of adversity.

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