I-League 2017-18: Kerala's Gokulam FC to get top flight status, become only 2nd club from state in I-League
The Malappuram-based Gokulam FC are all set to become the newest club in the top division of Indian football, the I-League. According to sources close to the I-League, Gokulam are assured a place in the league next season, which starts in November this year.
Only the minor details of paperwork need to be sorted before Gokulam are officially announced as the second ever I-League club from India's southern state of Kerala. Gokulam FC's management is confident of a place in the I-League next season and has already set into motion talks for player recruitment, according to the sources.
Gokulam, who were founded in January this year in the presence of Kerala's chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Indian football legend IM Vijayan, appointed Bino George as their head coach and the former Mohammedan Sporting player will take charge of the team in the 2017-18 season.
It is reported that the AIFF would convene on 16th September to evaluate the bids from Gokulam, Bengaluru's Ozone FC and a Rajasthan-based club, but the team from Manjeri, Kerala are all but confirmed to be part of the top division next season.
Gokulam would, in the process, become only the second club from the state of Kerala to play in the I-League. The lack of top division clubs from a football crazy state like Kerala has always been Indian football's great paradox. After the rise and subsequent fall of clubs like FC Kochin, State Bank of Travancore and Viva Kerala, Gokulam FC are set to become the fourth club from Kerala to play in India's top flight.
In George, the club will have one of the top qualified football coaches in India. 40-year-old George was a footballer who played for clubs like Mohammedan and FC Kochin and is the first from Kerala to hold an AFC Professional Coaching Diploma. Gokulam's ascension to the top flight inside a year of their formation has the promise to fast-track George's career.
"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 George in February to local publication Manorama. It seems the first target has now been achieved.
With Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters the state's only representative in India's top divisions, the addition of Gokulam will be a welcome prospect for the passionate and emotional fans of Kerala.