After failed talks with Mohun Bagan, Fernando Varela hopes to script history with Gokulam Kerala by winning I-League
When Mohun Bagan began their search to find a new head coach for the 2019-20 I-League season, Fernando Varela's name started to do the rounds in Kolkata Maidan. However, the talks failed and Varela found himself 1400 miles adrift at the helm of Gokulam Kerala.
"When I was shortlisted for Mohun Bagan, I felt grateful that such a big team had it in their mind to work with me. But, at that moment, it was not possible for me to coach Mohun Bagan. And, now I am here with Gokulam," Varela told Sportskeeda before his side's pre-season clash against ISL side Mumbai City FC which they drew 1-1.
As fate would have it, Varela's Gokulam Kerala defeated Mohun Bagan in the finals of the 2019 Durand Cup to clinch India's oldest domestic cup tournament. However, this is not his first stint with Gokulam.
The Argentine-born coached Gokulam Kerala in 2018 but left the club citing personal reasons just before the I-League commenced. Despite being a football-crazy state, Kerala has never seen any of its sides clinch the I-League and Varela hopes to script history by doing so.
"In the first year, I bagged the Kerala Premier League and now I got the Durand Cup. We are ready and have a strong team and hope to create history with Gokulam by winning I-League."
The I-League is known for its unpredictable nature, with the last three editions witnessing those teams clinching the title that had narrowly escaped relegation in their respective previous campaigns
Gokulam Kerala finished ninth in the previous edition and Varela, who completed his coaching license alongside Bengaluru FC coach Carles Cuadrat, thinks four teams can pose a challenge for the elusive title.
"The other teams that reached the semi-finals in Durand Cup – Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Real Kashmir – and of course Chennai City, the last year's champions (can pose a threat). But, I think we have improved a lot from last year. We have changed our mentality and improved our style from last year while retaining the same players."
Next up for Gokulam Kerala is Bengaluru FC, who are coming on the back of a 3-1 victory against Churchill Brothers at Bellary in their pre-season game.
"We will try to do our best (in these pre-season games) like in Durand Cup. My mission is always to try to get the best from the players. But in pre-season games, we also need to try new players and get to know about them and increase their potential," Varela said.
Despite finishing in the bottom half of I-League table, the Malabarians thronged the stadium in odd kickoff timings to support Gokulam Kerala last season, registering an average attendance of a little less than 15000. Varela expects them to do the same this season too.
"I want the fans to believe in us. I want them to come to the stadium in I-league matches so that we have strong support from the fans," he signed off.