We can compete with anyone, even ISL teams: Coach Annese who guided Gokulam to I-League title
Even the mighty Kerala Police spearheaded by the likes of IM Vijayan and VP Sathyan hadn't won a league title at the national level but Annese backed himself to help Gokulam win the elusive I-League
KOCHI: When 36-year-old Vincenzo Alberto Annese was appointed as the head coach of Gokulam Kerala FC, the Italian suggested that he wanted to turn the Kerala outfit into one of the major forces in Indian football.
Even the mighty Kerala Police spearheaded by the likes of IM Vijayan and VP Sathyan hadn't won a league title at the national level but Annese backed himself to help Gokulam win the elusive I-League.
A coach with no experience in this part of the world, Annese also wanted the whole nation to take note of Gokulam and the way they play. At first, these claims could have been seen as the enthusiasm shown by a coach who has a clean slate in front of him.
Seven months later, he has lived up to all his promises by creating an everlasting legacy as he guided Gokulam to the I-League title and the Indian football fraternity has been talking about their triumph.
"I always had the belief in myself and that's why I said those things. They weren't simply said. This title is very significant because no team from this region won the I-League and it will surely make a positive impact for the sport in this football-loving state," said Annese.
Many expected him to adopt a defensive style of play which is usually a stereotype attached to Italian coaches, but Annese surprised everyone by implementing an attacking and free-flowing system.
"We should have won the league much earlier because we scored so many goals and won so many games. In the end, we deserved to win the title even though it turned out to be very close," he said.
The former Belize national team coach also put a lot of faith in youngsters which was another bold move. It paid off eventually with the likes of Emil Benny enjoying a breakout season.
Emil was awarded the emerging player of the year award by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for his performances this season.
"Emil is a future national team player and as I said before, there are many from I-League who can play for the national team. I always believed in all my players and you have to give them the freedom to do what they want," he said.
Annese realises that his task is not done as Gokulam will now prepare to become the first club from Kerala to compete at the AFC Cup. Defending the I-League title is also not an easy task as no team has managed to achieve that feat till date.
"The first thing is to retain all these players. That is very important. We also have the ambition to do well both in Asia. It's not easy as Indian clubs haven't fared that well in the competition due to lack of experience or exposure. But we are confident," he said.
Having put Gokulam on the map, Annese believes the team can compete with anyone, including the Indian Super League sides.
"We can compete with anybody, even the ISL teams. We want to progress from here and help in the development of football in India," he concluded.