ISL 2019-20: Kerala Blasters' Rehenesh TP reflects positivity ahead of crucial away fixtures (Exclusive)
Just like any other kid from the coastal area of Malabar, football and beaches were the love for this little lad too. The evening games after class and family's love for the sport only boosted his passion.
Little did the boy know then that he would be guarding one of India's biggest clubs at the end of the decade under the name Rehenesh TP. In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, the goalkeeper talked about a host of things ranging from his debut to Blasters' upcoming games.
I am from Kozhikode, Malabar, a place that loves football. Every evening after class, we used to go to the beach or ground to play. I used to go watch games. That's how I got attracted to football. I got attracted to goalkeeping seeing keepers diving and saving. I liked that challenge.
After rising through the systems of Chirag United Kerala and Golden Threads FC, Rehenesh had to wait for eight years to return to a club back home. The keeper expressed his delight to play before his family and home crowd, donning the Kerala Blasters jersey.
I began my career with Chirag United Kerala. It was my first professional club. I had played for Golden Threads FC in the I-League Second Division for a year. From there I went onto play for ONGC, Mumbai Tigers, Shillong Lajong, NorthEast United and East Bengal. I am so happy to be back home, to play before my own crowd and family.
Rehenesh made his career breakthrough after signing for NorthEast United in the inaugural season of the ISL. The then-new face in Indian football stunned throughout the season, appearing in 12 games. Rehenesh stayed at the club for five seasons, featuring in 49 games. The 26-year old does not shy away from crediting the Highlanders for his development.
I was an inexperienced and immature keeper when I was in NorthEast United for the first season. But then, the coaches, management and family played a huge rule in supporting and helping. It is only because of their support and prayers that I can continue at this level. I am thankful to all of them.
TRehenesh is one of those players who followed head coach Eelco Schattorie from NorthEast to Kerala. When asked about what the coach has changed at the club, the player said:
The coach is then and now the same. His thoughts, approach and fighting spirit are all the same. Luck was a bit more in our favor at NorthEast. Here, we are unlucky with injuries but I believe we are getting back on track. The results will change soon.
Kerala Blasters have had a difficult season, going on a nine-match winless streak after their first victory against ATK. After a long wait, the Kochi-based outfit defeated Hyderabad FC to register both of their wins at home. Rehenesh has realised the importance of collecting maximum points when the Blasters play three consecutive away games this month. The custodian opined that the team will not be piling pressure from the away ground aspect. He also heaped praise on the crowds of Goa along with Kochi.
Kerala Blasters have a home advantage in the ISL. Except for Kerala and Goa, I personally feel, all the grounds are the same. But in both these places, the home and away difference is felt. The next three games are important. We don't have any points to lose. We have dropped points with a few draws and defeats. We have to play the upcoming matches one-by-one, focussed and only with maximum points can we qualify for the playoffs.
Schattorie's team have been blamed for playing too many back passes. Eventually, Rehenesh has emerged as the keeper with the most average passes per game. The man under the bars, however, backed his team's plan to use him as a link in the buildup and felt it was only a move to evade the pressure.
When the team faces pressure in buildups, they use me as a thread to escape; I connect the move. Everyone feels we play only at the back. But, we build from the back. The opposition will watch our game. So they plan to put us under difficult situations. In such cases when we face difficulties, our players use me to escape and continue the move. That might be the reason why I receive and make so many passes. But still, there is pressure and I am playing a challenging position that requires a lot of focus.
Like any other Kerala personnel, he too feels injuries have played their part in the team's misery. He reflected the gaffer's words of not being able to build consistency in the playing XI.
We can see that after every match one or two players are being out injured. We haven't been able to play with the same starting XI for two or three matches. Indeed it is an unlucky factor. We hope from now on, we will be free of injuries, have the same XI and play strong again.
Blasters truly became a Kerala club when they had six local players playing against Odisha FC. The match began with Rehenesh guarding the goal, Sahal Abdul Samad, Rahul KP and Prasanth K in the midfield. Injuries in the first half forced Abdul Hakku and Mohammed Rafi to join the proceedings, marking a first-time event in the history of the club. Speaking on the same, Rehenesh said:
It was a proud and historic moment. Everyone wishes to have 11 local players in Kerala's own team. It was the closest to that because usually six Indian players are fielded and there were six Keralites. Everyone in the dressing room was happy on that day.
TP said the 5-1 victory against Hyderabad FC has been a huge boost to everyone in the side and there's a positivity in the camp.
We are all positive right now. The victory in the last match has boosted everyone. We will try to continue that and win the upcoming matches.
Before signing off, the custodian had a word for the Blasters faithful - Manjappada. Rehenesh assured not to disappoint them and thanked them for staying with the club through the good and bad times. He believes the fans will always be by their, side extending their support.
Manjappada has stood with us during our good and bad times. We have a special wing for them in the stadium. Even when the attendance drops everywhere else, you can see a full pack on that side. We are thankful to them. We haven't played before empty galleries and believse they will always be there. We thank you and will not disappoint you. We will try to win for you.