Josco FC has a good chance to lift the prevailing gloom in Kerala football, believes the team’s new coach M.M. Jacob.
Kerala does not have a team in the I-League which kicks off next month and in the ongoing Federation Cup. But Jacob, who coached the State team to the Santosh Trophy semifinal recently, believes Josco could change the scene.
“We have a young bunch, my boys are in the 23-24 years range and most of them are from Kerala, they have a good chance to go a long way,” said the seasoned coach at the Udyogamandal FACT Ground, the Josco’s training base.
The club, promoted by jewellery major Josco Group, was the toast of Kerala football early last year when it emerged as the State’s champion club twice in quick succession. The Kerala Football Association was clearing a backlog and held the State inter-club championship twice within the space of two months.
But the stunning run came to an end last November when Josco disbanded the team after a players’ protest and disciplinary issues.
And now that Josco has come back, it is keen to emerge stronger. And it has a willing boss in Tony Jose, the President and CEO of the Josco FC, who is keen to support its every move.
“Tony is very interested in football, he was here even the other day, talking to us,” said Jacob who coached Kochi’s Central Excise team for nearly two decades earlier.
The 30-member team, led by former Mohammedan Sporting player Ummer Farooque, started its new season early this month and will play its first tournament after its comeback — the G.V. Raja all-India event in Thiruvananthapuram — next week.
“We have just started and we don’t have much exposure… we just played one friendly game, against Central Excise recently,” said Jacob. “We need more games and tournaments to gain strength.”
With Chennai’s ICF, Southern Railway and Thiruvananthapuram’s KSEB in its group, the Kochi-based team does not expect an easy outing in the State capital. Josco and Jacob have been watching Chennai’s all-India TFA Shield, where ICF defeated KSEB 4-2 and entered the semifinal — very closely the last few days — looking for clues and taking notes on Fredy, who scored twice in a five-minute spell in that game.
Josco will be preparing for the Second Division I-League soon after the G.V. Raja tourney and Jacob is keen to get the little things right without much delay.
“We are trying for a good striker,” he said. “If you look at all the I-League teams, the foreign strikers are doing the bulk of the scoring. We need a strong striker who will bulldoze his way through the defence.”
The team’s two foreign players — medio Prince Monday and defender Uzoma Harrisoni — have both come from Kochi’s Golden Threads, Kerala champion club. The rest have come from all over, including Air India, Chirag, Chennai’s Central Excise and Mumbai’s Kenkre FC.
Jacob is aware that the Second Division I-League is a tough assignment. “In fact, qualifying from the Second Division is tougher than playing and staying in the I-League.”
But he is hopeful. “We can help Kerala regain some of its glory but we need a lot of support…from the State Government, the State association and the fans.”