India Indian Super League

Kerala Blasters part ways with head coach Eelco Schattorie; Kibu Vicuna to take charge

Kerala Blasters have parted ways with head coach Eelco Schattorie after one season at the helm of affairs, the Indian Super League side announced on Wednesday.

The Dutchman was in charge of the Kochi-based outfit in the ISL 2019-20 and guided the club to a seventh-place finish.

“Kerala Blasters FC have parted ways with the Head Coach, Eelco Schattorie. We’d like to thank Eelco for his efforts and services during his tenure and wish him the best for the future,” Kerala Blasters tweeted.

The 48-year-old first landed on Indian shores when he took over Kolkata-based Prayag United back in 2012.

He went on to win the IFA Shield and guided the team to a fourth-place finish in the I-League.

In his very first season as a head coach in the ISL, Schattorie showcased immense tactical guile and took Guwahati-based NorthEast United to the semi-finals for the first time since the club’s inception, before being knocked out by eventual champions Bengaluru FC.

After leading the NorthEast United to their best-ever campaign in the club’s history, Schattorie replaced Nelo Vingada as the Kerala Blasters head coach heading into ISL 2019-20.

The Dutchman, however, could not replicate the same success in Kerala which he achieved with NorthEast United, with several factors coming into play.

A host of recurring injuries to key players, including a season-long one to Sandesh Jhingan, severely handicapped Kerala’s campaign as they finished seventh on the table with 19 points from 18 matches.

Despite not making the top four, Schattorie’s Kerala side found a lot of admirers for their free-flowing attacking style of football.

It’s official. Kerala Blasters will have a new head coach next season—the ninth one since the Indian Super League started in 2014. I-League-winning coach Kibu Vicuna will replace Dutchman

Kerala Blasters appoint Kibu Vicuna as coach after parting ways ...

Blasters had recently appointed Karolis Skynkis as sporting director. The Lithuanian, it is learnt, convinced the Spaniard to take up the job. After the merger of Mohun Bagan and ATK, Vicuna was left without a club. The 48-year-old has been the assistant coach at several Polish clubs and had impressed everybody with his style of play with Bagan.

Vicuna had led Mohun Bagan to the title in the 2019-20 season, with four games to spare. Reports say that he will be bringing his own staff, including Polish assistant coach Tomasz Tchorz and a Lithuanian physical trainer.

Vicuna took over from Khalid Jamil and became the first foreign coach the Mariners have had since Moroccan Karim Bencherifa left the club in April 2014. Under him, Mohun Bagan played a high-tempo, attractive football — securing a second I-League title, with four games to spare.

The Blasters recently announced the appointment of Lithuanian Karolis Skinkys as its sporting director.

The Kochi-based club had a poor ISL 2019-20 season that saw it finish seventh with 19 points from 18 games, managing only four wins along the way.

Coaching experience

Vicuna’s first coaching experience came with CA Osasuna in 2002. Three years later, he took over as manager of Spanish Tercera Division club CD River Ega.

In 2007, he served the assistant coach to Jan Urban, who managed Poland at Euro 2008. He continued his association with Urban for 11 years — across clubs like Legia Warszawa, Zaglebie Lubin, Legia Warszawa, CA Osasuna, Lech Poznan and Slask Wroclaw.

His first senior managerial role was with Lithuanian club FK Riteriai in 2018.