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After Kerala Blasters and GKFC, Kerala United FC gets ready to make their mark

The new domestic football season in India will get underway with the I-League Qualifiers in October, and Kerala United FC is hoping to gain from such a collaboration.

Published: 30th August 2021 09:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th August 2021 09:17 PM   |  A+A-

Kerala United FC

Kerala United FC

Express News Service

KOCHI: Football clubs in India have been attracting a lot of global interest in recent years. From strategic partnerships to buying majority stakes, Indian clubs have benefitted in different ways from such tie-ups.
While the City Football Group bought majority stakes of ISL side Mumbai City FC and steered them to serial success, FC Goa and Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig entered into a strategic partnership for youth development.

The new domestic football season in India will get underway with the I-League Qualifiers in October, and Kerala United FC is hoping to gain from such a collaboration.

Last year, Kozhikode-based team Quartz FC was bought by United World Groups. The sports management firm also owns former English Premier League side Sheffield United (currently playing in the EFL Championship) besides three other teams in Belgium, France and UAE respectively.

After being rebranded as Kerala United FC, the team which competed primarily in the Kerala Premier League will make their foray onto the national stage.

The goal is simple - get to the Indian Super League - and compete with the best.

"We are hoping to grow organically in Indian football. Within the next few years, we want to play in the ISL. We want to build up a fanbase, a foundation, develop youngsters and progress through the system to reach the top rather than take any shortcuts," said club CEO Shabeer Mannaril.

The appointment of veteran coach Bino George is a clear indication of the club's ambitions. Bino is a widely respected coach in Indian football and played a significant role in the rise of another Kerala outfit to the top of Indian football.

The vastly experienced AFC Pro License coach was hired when Gokulam Kerala FC was founded in 2017. Under his stewardship, first as the head coach and later as the Technical Director, the Malabarians picked up one trophy after another, with the biggest of them being the I-League (2020-21 title).

The 44-year-old is also known to scout talent and develop young players. "The footballing philosophy of the club was in line with my ideals. I want to develop young players and make them great. It is one of the reasons I was attracted to this job besides wanting to get back into coaching. There is a proper structure from top to bottom and they don't put any pressure on me in terms of success. But in the long run, I want to prepare a team that can compete against the nation's best" said Bino.

Teams from Kerala enjoyed some heady days when the likes of Kerala Police - led by IM Vijayan and VP Sathyan - dominated Indian football.

That made way to a period of decline when many clubs went defunct. The emergence of Kerala Blasters and reigning I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC has been a renaissance of sorts.

"We hope to have our own place in Indian football like the past and present teams from Kerala. Hopefully, we can contribute something to the growth of Indian football and give some more youngsters an opportunity to shine while exploring more projects in the future," said club Managing Director Zakkariya Koduvery.

And United want to follow in their footsteps in achieving a lasting legacy. While Blasters play their home games in Kochi and Gokulam in Kozhikode, United have the Payyanad Stadium in Malappuram as their home ground.

And with the area being a football hotbed, the club hopes to cater to the football-crazy fans of the region.

"The Group had considered clubs in Kolkata and Mumbai, but they've seen the fan following of Blasters and Gokulam, which is like that of Mohun Bagan. So they felt this was the best place to invest," KUFC's Commercial and Marketing Manager Shameer Ampopilakkil summed it up.
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