Kerala Blasters will take on Mumbai City FC today in match 62 of the ISL. The Blasters defeated the Islanders by a margin of three goals in their last meeting. KBFC boss Ivan Vukomanovic and defender Enes Sipovic talked to the media ahead of the game.
COVID-19 has struck the ISL, with many clubs reporting positive cases and a couple of games postponed. For the past few days, the Kerala Blasters have not trained. Ivan Vukomanovic discussed the current state of the club and the players.
“It’s not easy. I think nine clubs are in quarantine, and it isn’t easy. Nobody is talking about football anymore. We have families, wives, children, pregnant women here, and it feels like the virus is passing on to each other when the teams face each other like a chain. It has brought us to a situation where we have to go for a game without training for days. We are going to see bad football and more injuries. We are at that stage of the league where it could affect the players’ careers and status. Last night we saw some injuries that could mean the end of the season for some players. In these circumstances, we’ll be thinking about certain things rather than football. I hope everyone stays safe and healthy. I am confident in the people from ISL because they have everything under control by testing and organizing everything.”
“We don’t have the same feeling. We don’t feel like it’s a competition. It’s weird, I don’t know how to explain it. We have to be patient, careful and think about our responsibilities as humans because it’s not only about playing games, we also have to be responsible for not spreading the virus around. We all are potential carriers and the virus could affect people in three or four days. Hopefully, the ISL will have everything sorted out. So far, they have everything under control,” he added.
The coach also explained why he has been telling the team to stay humble and not allow their performance to be influenced by high expectations.
“From my experience as a former player, I’ve managed to win several titles in different countries. The moment you start relaxing and start announcing big words, say certain things, you crumble. As a team, you have to stay focused if you want to continue your positive attitude and if you want to win games. The moment you start to relax and think that you are the best in the world, you’re at the top of the table, then you are done. Reaching the summit of the table is much easier than staying on top. From our side, I’ve been saying this because I want us to concentrate on our jobs, and in this league, nobody is going to offer us anything, we have to fight for it. The only way we can fight for it is by staying together as a team and being concentrated. In professional sports, the moment you start being arrogant, you’re finished.”
Ivan Vukomanovic and Enes Sipovic | KBFC vs MCFC | Pre-match Press Conference | ISL 2021-22— Halfway Football (@HalfwayFootball) January 15, 2022
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Further, he added, “In the end, if we reach somewhere and achieve certain things, then there will be moments to cheer and have fun. Now we have to stay focused on our job because it’s not finished. We still have games, and we don’t know if we will be playing the games or not because of all the uncertainty and this situation.”
The team hasn’t been able to prepare for tomorrow’s game since they’ve been placed in precautionary quarantine as a preventive measure. Vukomanovic talked about how the absence of training has affected them and how it might affect their game tomorrow.
“It was one of those games [against Mumbai City FC earlier this season] in which we wanted to play in a certain way. We were pleased with the way we played that game, and we got three points. Since then, we’ve been trying to modify our approach and play different styles. For tomorrow’s game, I can’t say anything because we haven’t prepared for the game, we didn’t train. We don’t even know if the game will be played. I cannot say anything about our strategy or approach because there were no preparations. For a couple of days, we are in [precautionary] quarantine, sitting in our rooms without going to the [training] pitch to prepare for the games.”
He went on to add, “You cannot prepare for certain things if there are no preparations. We don’t know whether we are going to get time to train today or in the coming days. We cannot speak about our opponents or anybody else because we cannot control those things, we don’t know what’s happening on the other side. We are concerned about ourselves and what we can do on the pitch more than our opponents. That’s the way we want to improve and move forward. For tomorrow’s game we aren’t prepared, we don’t know how many players we’re going to have. Nothing is certain, we’ll see.”
Vukomanovic was asked if he would like tomorrow’s match against Mumbai City FC to be postponed due to the current circumstances of escalating COVID-19 cases and playing games without any training. The coach responded, “I don’t look at it as an option. I would like us to continue playing, but then there are these circumstances not just in ISL but all over the world. I am fully confident in the people from ISL, they will sort out everything like it has to be done. There are two sides, if we speak about football from a physical perspective it is not easy for the players to play the game without training because if you are not in a rhythm, and you go to play the game where the efforts exhaust you then you lose a lot of liquid and muscles will get injured. If a player gets a muscle injury he’ll be out for six or seven weeks, if you are out for six to seven weeks it means that for you the competition is done. On the other side as a human being responsible knowing that you could be the carrier and infect other people, or we can infect each other when we meet each other in club meetings, dressing room, buses, or the pitch. That kind of feeling doesn’t give us confidence, and we can’t fully concentrate. It’s exhausting for the players because one injury can be the end of the season. Now we are in January that means after the season is done you will not be able to play until the next season, that’s a long gap. The players are not in that mood, and it’s a weird situation but again like I said, we are fully confident in our medical staff and the people from the ISL testing us and having everything under control. We are grateful for them and all these things. We don’t know what will happen with all this uncertainty. We have information that so far nine teams are in quarantine. This is very unpleasant, but we will do our best.”
Defender Enes Sipovic spoke about the problems players inside the bio bubble are facing in these challenging times.
“This is my third season in a bubble. I was in Qatar when the pandemic started and experienced these kinds of games. I have to be honest, it’s not easy, especially when you are in your room all you can think about is how to avoid getting infected by the virus when you have your wife and kids. In my case, I have to take care of my wife because we are expecting. It’s not easy mentally or physically because we can’t go out for training, and we don’t have many things to do, but this is what we have to do to finish the season and like the coach said we are confident in the people from the federation, they will take care of us and do everything in the best way possible. It’s not easy, you don’t think about football or your profession anymore you will only be thinking about getting out of this situation,” said the 31-year-old Bosnian.