Kozhikode: Gokulam Kerala FC have announced their 22-member squad for the 129th edition of Durand Cup. Gokulam will play against Chennaiyin FC in the Group ‘D’ opener at Howrah Stadium on August 8. The team reached Kolkata on August 4 and has been training there for the past few days.
“The squad is a good mixture of youngsters, local boys and experienced players. We have been training for three weeks and the players are getting tuned to my style. I think we have a good chance this time as we have quality players in all the departments,” said Gokulam Kerala FC head coach Santiago Varela.
“There are several quality players promoted from reserve team and the foreigners are also good. The local players are skilful and it is good to see so much of talent in the State. The morale of the players is excellent and they are eager to showcase their skills in this historic tournament,” he said.
There are nine Kerala players in the squad. Keralites Salman K and goalkeeper Ajmal are injured and have not travelled with the squad. Another Kerala defender Alex Saji is travelling with the squad but did not make it into the 22-member squad.
In the squad, four players have been promoted from Gokulam’s Reserve Team. Shibil Mohammed, Sanju G, Mayakannan and Rahul KP were with Gokulam Kerala FC reserve team last year. In this, Rahul KP’s is a surprise inclusion as he impressed the Spanish coach during training.
Rahul KP is a native of Kasargod and played in the Santosh Trophy. The forward was instrumental in Kerala winning Santosh Trophy in 2018. “I feel good to be part of the main squad. I have joined the training camp recently and am learning a lot. I like to thank Gokulam Kerala FC for giving me such an opportunity. It is always good to team up with foreigners as we youngsters have a lot to learn,” said Rahul.
Gokulam have also registered four foreigners for the tournament. Along with last year’s stars Marcus Joseph and Andre Ettienne, Gokulam have signed Henry Kisekka and Bruno Pelissari. Marcus Joseph will captain the team during the tournament.
“We were able to assemble a good squad and we hope the team can excel in the tournament. We have fielded the best team. We want to bring back Durand Cup to Kerala after FC Kochin won the title in 1997,” said VC Praveen, Gokulam Kerala FC president.
Started in 1888, Durand Cup is the oldest football tournament in Asia and third oldest in the world. This time 16 teams including 5 from ISL and 6 from I-league will compete for the trophy.
(Based on a story on Gokulam Kerala FC website)