At a time when Kerala's football dreams are limited to only the Indian Super League and Santosh Trophy, Gokulam FC's launch has given hope to the fans that the day will not be far when the state will get a representative in the country's premier club competition I-League.
The club, owned by industrialist Gokulam Gopalan and coached by Bino George, is based in the soccer-crazy district of Malappuram. The team has been undergoing training at the Kerala Sports Council stadium in Kottappadi for the past three weeks.
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“At present quite a few players are away as they are part of the Calicut University team (which triumphed in the inter-varsity competition) and various Santhosh Trophy squads. The club will rope in a couple of foreign players soon. One is Nigerian defender Bello Razaq and the other is Afghan midfielder Badar Khail. Our immediate focus is to get ready for the Kerala Premier League,” coach Bino told Onmanorama over the phone.
Gokulam FC's opening match is at home against Kerala Police on April 2.
The team will compete in the G. V. Raja Trophy and State-Inter Club Championships once the KPL gets over.
“Our aim is to qualify for the I-League in the near future and the onus is on retaining the core group of players. The team has got a good bunch of youngsters. Every year there will be 2-3 major signings in slots which replacements are needed,” said Bino, an AFC professional license holder.
The club also plans to develop a strong crop of under-14 and u-16 players.
“The talented players will be part of the Gokulam Academy and there will be a stipulated fee for each player. We are looking at a tie-up with foreign clubs so that the teenagers will get the much-needed exposure. There will be a scholarship for the deserving players who come from financially-backward background,” adds Bino.
Kerala has seen many clubs such as FC Kochin, Viva Kerala, which was rechristened Chirag United, Malabar United, Josco FC, Golden Threads, Golden Eagles and Pathanapuram FC fade away in the recent past. Perhaps, Gokulam FC can buck that trend.