THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At at time when other Indian Super League (ISL) teams are touring West Asia and Europe to prepare themselves for the new season, the state’s very own Kerala Blasters have instead chosen to stay closer to home at Thiruvananthapuram.
The team, who finished runners-up in the first edition of the league in 2014, has been training at Greenfield International Stadium, Kariavattom here, and has been taking to the city and its culture really well.
“We have had excellent facilities to train here and it was my decision to stay in India for preseason training,” said Peter Taylor, the former England under-20 national team coach and now the head coach of Blasters.
“The team, especially the foreign players, need to acclimatise themselves to the conditions in India and this camp here will help them to get that exposure,” said Taylor who, as recently as 2013, trained English stars like Harry Kane and Ross Barkley. The team also includes two Kerala footballers - Vineeth C K and Mohammed Rafi. Rafi won the ISL with Atletico de Kolkata last season while Vineeth, fresh from his assignment with the national team in Bengaluru, will make his ISL debut. “We are having a great camp in Thiruvananthapuram. We are still focusing on improving our fitness and the training matches we are having against department teams like State Bank of Travancore and KSEB will help us a lot,” said Vineeth. “Both the teams were very competitive and were tough matches for us,” said Rafi, who is excited to feature for a Kerala team after playing for SBT 10 years ago.
“Last year, I wanted to play for Kerala, but in auction, Atletico chose me,” the player from Kasargod said. “But this year, when an opportunity came to play for Blasters, I jumped on the chance,” said Rafi.
Meanwhile, the players have been getting to know the city better during their off days. English defender Peter Ramage who looks to have developed a fascination for ‘tuk-tuks’ (a.k.a. autorickshaws) shared his excitement in riding the rickshaw for the first time.
The players also shared pictures of them visiting the city zoo as well as the iconic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple all the while posing for photographs with youngsters who recognised them.
The Blasters are to continue their preparations in the coming weeks here, before they move to Kochi ahead of the season opener against NorthEast United FC on October 6. They are likely to play a few more friendly matches before that.