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Kerala Blasters FC

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters FC logo.svg
Full nameKerala Blasters Football Club
Nickname(s)Manjappada (Yellow Army)
The Tuskers
Short nameKBFC, KER
Founded27 May 2014; 7 years ago (2014-05-27)
GroundJawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, Kerala
Capacity80,000 (Limited To 41,000 by FIFA from 2017)
OwnersMagnum Sports Private Limited
ChairmanNikhil Bhardwaj
Head coachIvan Vukomanović
LeagueIndian Super League
2020–21Indian Super League, 10th of 11
Playoffs: DNQ
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Kerala Blasters Football Club (Malayalam pronunciation: [keːɾaɭa blaːsṯṯeːsə] (About this soundlisten)), commonly referred to as The Blasters, is an Indian professional football club based in Kochi, Kerala, that competes in the Indian Super League, the top tier of football in India. The club was established in May 2014 during the inaugural season of the Indian Super League.

The club played their inaugural match on 13 October 2014, losing 1–0 to NorthEast United. They are the two time runners up of the Indian Super League; first in 2014, where they lost 1–0 to ATK in the final after an injury time goal from them and in 2016, when they were again defeated 4–3 by ATK, this time through penalties in the final. The club plays home games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. In most of the seasons since the club's founding, Kerala Blasters have held the record for the highest league attendance, regularly attracting audiences of over 40,000 per game. The Blasters shares rivalry with fellow South Indian neighbours Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC, with whom they contest in the South Indian Derby.

The Blasters are one of the most widely supported clubs in Asia and has one of the largest social media following among the football clubs from the continent. The club is also known for their fan base, including the supporters' group called Manjappada, which has gained a reputational for being one of the most vocal and passionate fan clubs in India. The club's crest features an elephant holding a football with its trunk, denoting Kerala's deep connection with the sport. The club's traditional kit consist of yellow and blue colours scheme, with yellow being the primary colour and identity of the club ever since the beginning.



Sachin Tendulkar, one of the first co-owners of the club

In early 2014, the All India Football Federation—the governing body of association football in India, announced they would accept bids for the ownership of eight franchises from selected cities for the inaugural season of Indian Super League (ISL).[1] On 13 April 2014, it was announced the rights to the Kochi franchise had been won by former India national cricket team captain Sachin Tendulkar and entrepreneur Prasad V Potluri.[2] On 27 May 2014, the club's official name, Kerala Blasters FC, was announced.[3]

Indian international Mehtab Hossain was the first player signed by the club, as he was the first one to be picked up by the Blasters during the first domestic draft.[4] The management also selected seven other Indian players for their inaugural season.[5] On 13 August 2014, former England international goalkeeper David James was chosen as the first head coach and marquee player of the team.[6] On 21 August 2014, the club participated in the international draft; the management selected seven foreign players for the team.[7] Michael Chopra, Iain Hume, Pulga, Erwin Spitzner, Pedro Gusmão, Cedric Hengbart and Raphaël Romey were the seven foreign players drafted to Kerala Blasters. Along with them, the club directly signed Penn Orji, Jamie McAllister, Andrew Barisic, Stephen Pearson and Colin Falvey in the remaining foreign players slots.[8]

Inaugural season

David James in England jersey
David James was the first manager and marquee player of the club

Kerala Blasters played their first game on 13 October 2014 against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium; they lost the game 1–0 after Koke scored in the 45th minute.[9] On 21 October, the club's first-ever goal was scored by Iain Hume during their second match, which was against Chennaiyin. Despite Hume's goal, the Blasters lost the game 2–1.[10] The Blasters first win came in their fourth game, which was played against Pune City; Chinadorai Sabeeth and Penn Orji scored the club's goals, leading to a 2–1 victory.[11] After playing their first five matches away from home, Kerala Blasters hosted their first home match on 6 November 2014 against Goa. A goal by Milagres Gonsalves led to a 1–0 victory in front of 49,517 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi).[12] The Blasters qualified for the playoffs on 9 December 2014 with a 1–0 victory over Pune City.[13]

After finishing in fourth place during the regular season, the side played their first semi-finals match on 13 December 2014 against Chennaiyin. Despite not being considered the favourite to win the two-legged tie, they won the first leg at home 3–0 with goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Iain Hume, and Sushanth Mathew.[14] During the second leg in Chennai, the Blasters were about to suffer a massive setback. Despite entering the second leg with a three-goal advantage, Chennaiyin drew the tie level by winning in regular time 3–0. In extra time, however, Stephen Pearson scored the decisive goal in the 117th minute to win the tie 4–3 to enter the final.[15]

2014 Indian Super League Final starting lineup[16]

In the final, Kerala Blasters played ATK at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. Hume should have given Blasters the lead after 55 minutes, but he took too long alone in front of the goalkeeper, allowing the defenders to eventually block his shot. The match was destined to go to extra time until ATK were given a corner kick in the last minute, and headed the ball at the near post. As a result, the Blasters lost the match 1–0 despite dominating it throughout the 90 minutes.[17]

2015 season

After the 2014 season, the club announced David James would not return to the club as the head coach and marquee player, and on 12 May 2015, it was confirmed that former England Under-20 head coach Peter Taylor would take over the manager role at the club.[18] The club signed a new roster of foreign players, which includes Carlos Marchena as the marquee signing.[19]

The first match of the season was played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium against NorthEast United where the Blasters won 3–1 with goals from Josu, Mohammed Rafi, and Sanchez Watt.[20] They drew their next match against Mumbai City and then lost their next four matches, which led to the dismissal of Peter Taylor as head coach.[21] Assistant coach Trevor Morgan was in charge for one match before Terry Phelan was named as the head coach for the rest of the season.[22] The Blasters ended their second season in the last place of the league table.[23]

2016 season

In an effort to rebuild the team after failing to qualify for the semi-finals in the previous season, the Blasters announced the signing of Steve Coppell as their head coach on 21 June 2016.[24] A week later, the club announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes as their marquee player for the season.[25]

The season began with a 1–0 defeat away from home against NorthEast United.[27] The Blasters struggled early in the season, as they failed to score goals.[28] After the return of C.K. Vineeth from his loan-spell with Bengaluru FC, Blasters solved their goal-scoring issue. He scored four goals from his first five matches which includes a winner against FC Goa and a brace over Chennaiyin FC. In order to qualify for semi-final, Blasters needed to avoid a defeat against North East United FC.[29] Vineeth's only goal in the 66th minute helped Blasters to beat North East United 1-0 to seal the second place behind Mumbai City FC in the league table.[30]

After finishing in second place during the regular season, the Blasters played third-placed Delhi Dynamos in the first leg of the semi-finals, which took place in Kochi. The Blasters won the match 1–0 through Kervens Belfort's 65th-minute goal.[31] During the second leg in Delhi, the Dynamos won in extra time 2–1, which meant the scores became tie on aggregate and the match went to penalty shootout where the Blasters won it 3–0 to enter the final.[32] In the final, the Blasters played host to ATK and got the lead early through Mohammed Rafi before ATK equalized soon after and the match went into a penalty shootout. Despite taking the lead early in the shootout, the Blasters lost 4–3; it was their second finals defeat in three seasons.[33]

2017–18 season

After losing in the previous season's finals, Steve Coppell rejected a new contract extension so the club appointed former Manchester United assistant manager René Meulensteen as their new manager.[34] Blasters released all of their foreign players and signed some more, including former Manchester United players Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown.[35][36] Sandesh Jhingan was appointed as the captain and the club re-signed their leading goalscorer from the first season Iain Hume.[37] The Blasters won only one of their first eight games that season, leading to the sacking of Meulensteen.[38] Fan-favourite manager David James returned to the squad as caretaker.[39] The Blasters won five of the remaining ten matches and finished sixth in the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. They were eliminated in the first round of the Super Cup.[40]

2018–19 season

Having failed to qualify for the previous season's semi-finals, the Blasters signed a three-year deal with manager David James. With a new roster, Kerala Blasters had one of their worst seasons ever, won only one and drawn six of their twelve fixtures, leading to the sacking of James.[41] This was the season that witnessed the club's rising star Sahal Abdul Samad's emergence as Blasters' mainstay in midfield.[42] After the international mid-season break, the Blasters appointed Nelo Vingada as their new manager for the remaining six matches.[43] Of the remaining games, the team had only one win and three draws and finished ninth in the league.[44] They were eliminated from the Super Cup in the qualifying round of the tournament.[45]

2019–20 season

After a disappointing season, the Blasters appointed Eelco Schattorie as their new manager.[46] The club released all of their foreign players and signed a new roster that included Cameroon-born Raphaël Messi Bouli and former Nigeria international Bartholomew Ogbeche as forwards.[47] Blasters beat their arch-rivals ATK on the season's first day. Throughout the season, the team was hit by injury concerns. Defender Sandesh Jhingan, who captained the club for the last two seasons, was out of action with an ACL injury and newly signed Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues was also injured.[48] Both defenders missed the entire season and Rodrigues played a few matches in the start.[49] Gianni Zuiverloon and Mario Arqués and other players were also hit by minor injuries in the season; they missed some of the crucial fixtures.[50] The Blasters finished the season in seventh place in the table.[51]

2020–21 season

From the 2020-21 season onwards, the management decided to build a new strategy at the club.[52] As a part of this, the Blasters appointed Karolis Skinkys as their new sporting director on 15 March 2020.[53] On 22 April 2020, the club officially announced the appointment of Kibu Vicuña as their new manager.[54] Fan-favourite defender Sandesh Jhingan left the club on 21 May 2020 by mutual consent, ending his six-year association with the Blasters.[55]

The Blasters decided to rely more upon young Indian players and extended the contracts of Sahal and Rahul KP until 2025.[56][57] They signed Nishu Kumar on a four-year deal from Bengaluru FC. The Blasters only extended the contract of Sergio Cido among the foreign players and signed a new roster of them under the supervision of the new sporting director.[58]

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the seventh season of ISL was decided to take place in 3 venues in Goa behind closed doors.[59] Same as in the previous season, the team suffered an early setback, with this time, captain Sergio Cidoncha suffering a ligament injury on his right ankle during their third match against Chennaiyin FC, ruling out for the remainder of the season.[60] It took the Blasters seven games to register their first victory of the season, winning against Hyderabad FC 2–0.[61] The team were affected by injuries, lesser compared to the previous season. They lost 18 points from winning position, which includes 4 losses after taking the early lead.[62] The club had the worst defensive performance in their history conceding 33 goals in 18 games and had only 3 wins.[63] On 17 February 2021, after a 4–0 loss against Hyderabad FC on 16 February, Kibu Vicuna and the management decided to part ways on mutual consent. Assistant manager Ishfaq Ahmed was appointed as the interim head coach for the remaining 2 games of the season.[64] The club's fortunes remained largely unchanged in the season as they finished tenth place in the league table.[65]

2021–22 season

After another disappointing season, the club appointed Ivan Vukomanović as their head coach on 17 June 2021.[66]

Crest, colours and kits

The crest and colours for Kerala Blasters were announced at the club's official launch on 15 September 2014.[67]


The club's crest is designed around the elephant, one of Kerala's main symbols, to reflect its place in Kerala's culture and festivities, and to represent the state's sporting legacy.[68] The elephant holds a football with its trunk, denoting the state’s deep connection with the sport. The elephant is a symbol of unity, power, and pride; it also symbolises the heritage, culture, spirit, and passion of Kerala, and its love for football.[67]


Official T shirt
The club's home shirts during the 2016 season

Since its inception, the club colours have been yellow and blue. Yellow is the club's primary colour as well as its main identity.[69] According to former co-owner Sachin Tendulkar, yellow stands for determination and faith.[70] During their inaugural season, the club wore yellow shirts and blue shorts and this was used until the 2016 season. For the 2017–18 season, the Blasters introduced an all-yellow kit with a different shade of yellow.[71] Here the blue remained as the secondary colour that flows across the side of the shirt.[72] This kit was used for the 2018–19 season, after which the team returned to its traditional yellow and blue kit with the same shades as the previous season.[73] In 2020, a new jersey in the club’s customary yellow and blue colours was launched, with this time, the blue coming in the arms. The kit which pays homage to the state of Kerala also had horizontal lines that run along the breadth of the jersey.[74]

The club's away colours for the first three seasons were yellow shirts and white shorts. For the 2017–18 season, the club introduced the all-black jersey with yellow stripe on the bottom of arms and shorts and this was used until the 2019–20 season.[75] In 2020, the Blasters launched a new blue away kit with a distinctive pattern.[76] This kit was launched by the club as a dedication to their fans, who were missed at the stands due to COVID-19 pandemic.[77]

In 2020, the Blasters launched a contest for the fans to design the club's first-ever third kit for the 2020–21 season.[78] The third kit which had a white and gold colour scheme, designed by one of the fan was released by the club as an honour to the sacrifices and contribution of the frontline workers, who have been relentlessly working to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.[79]

Kit manufacturers and shirt sponsors

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt Prime Sponsor
2014–2016 Puma[80] Muthoot Group[81]
2016–2017 Bay Creations[82]
2017–2018 Admiral[83]
2018–2019 SIX5SIX[84]
2019–2020 Reyaur Sports [85]
2020–2021 BYJU'S[86]
2021– SIX5SIX[87]

On 29 September 2014, it was announced Kerala-based Muthoot Pappachan Group would be the title sponsor for Kerala Blasters.[81] Under the original agreement, the company would sponsor the Blasters for one season with the option to extend the sponsorship.[81] On 24 October that year, a month later, the Blasters announced the German sports manufacturer Puma would be the kit sponsors for the 2014 season.[88] Both sponsorships continued in 2015 and Muthoot remained as title sponsor into the 2016 season.[89] In June 2019, the Blasters signed a five-year deal with Jain University to be the presenting sponsor of the club.[90] In September 2020, the club signed a long-term deal with Statsports as their performance partner.[91] On 7 November 2020, the Blasters announced its association with BYJU’S, the world’s largest EdTech company, as their new title sponsor on a five-year deal.[86]


The stadium before a game.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi

Kerala Blasters play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the city of Kochi.[92] The stadium is multipurpose but is mostly used for football. It has hosted games of both the Indian national football and cricket teams, and has hosted National Football League and I-League clubs FC Kochin and Chirag United Club Kerala.[93][94] The stadium was also a venue for the Indian Premier League side Kochi Tuskers Kerala and was selected as a venue for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.[95] As a part of the FIFA event, the stadium was renovated and new seats were fitted and its capacity was reduced to 50,000 and later to 41,000, taking into account security issues.[96] The stadium received the Best Pitch of the Season Award from FSDL during the 2018-19 season of Indian Super League.[97] In 2019, Greater Cochin Development Authority proposed the installation of solar panels in the stadium, which would make it the first such venue in Kerala and the third in the country to be powered by solar energy.[98]


Fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium during an Indian Super League match

Kerala Blasters are known in the ISL for their fanatical supporters.[99][100] Averaging over 55,000 fans a game, the Blasters had the highest average attendance in most of the seasons they have played[101][102] and it fell to 37,500 in 2017 because safety regulations reduced the stadium's capacity to 41,000 as a part of 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup where Kochi was a venue.[103] According to former India international player Pappachen Pradeep, "In Kerala, the people support football tirelessly. It doesn't matter if the team wins or loses, they are always there in high numbers. I've played at places like Kolkata, where if the team loses two-three matches on the spin, the numbers in the stadium diminish. There is nothing like that in Kerala."[104] However Kerala Blasters have seen reduction in the average attendance below 30,000 on two seasons. During 2018–19 season, the Blasters had an average attendance of 16,432 and it became 17,500 in 2019–20 season.[105][106]

Supporters of Kerala Blasters during an ISL match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in 2016

According to Fox Asia, as of October 2020, the Blasters are the fifth most-popular Asian club on social media, becoming so in 2018 within the four years of its existence and were the youngest club among the list.[107][108][109] They are also the most followed Indian club on social media.[110] In February 2021, Kerala Blasters became the first Indian club to attain two million followers on Instagram.[111][112] According to a research in 2021, the club has the joint-fastest growing social media account on Instagram in Asia and sixth across the world in terms of fans interaction among all the football clubs.[113][114]

Manjappada (Yellow army) of Kerala Blasters

The Blasters are also known for having one of the most vocal and passionate supporters group known as Manjappada.[115] Founded in 2014, they are one of the largest and most active supporters group in the country.[116] The group has also won the award for the 'Best Fan Club' at the Indian Sports Honours for two times in 2017 and 2020.[117]


South Indian Derby

The club's main rivals are their South Indian neighbours, Chennaiyin FC[118] and Bengaluru FC.[119]

Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters have developed a rivalry with fellow southern club Chennaiyin FC from the inaugural season of the Indian Super League itself. Former Chennaiyin head coach Marco Materazzi was sent off when the clubs played each other in the 2014 final[120] and was then given a one-match suspension in 2016 after he was involved in a scuffle between a Chennaiyin player and a Kerala Blasters player.[121] This incident led Kerala Blasters fans to wear masks of Zinedine Zidane at the return leg in Kochi, intensifying the rivalry between the clubs.[120] The meetings between the two clubs later came to be known as the South Indian Derby.[122] Bengaluru FC became a part of the South Indian Derby, when they joined Indian Super League in 2017.

Bengaluru FC

The Blasters have also developed a rivalry with Karnataka-based club Bengaluru FC, which started in 2017 before Bengaluru began playing in the ISL.[123] The rivalry stems from the competition between both clubs fan bases; Manjappada of the Blasters and Bengaluru's West Block Blues.[124] The South Indian Derby between the Blasters and Bengaluru is often known as the Great South Indian Derby or Real South Indian Derby.[125]

Rivalry with ATK Mohun Bagan

The Blasters shares an intense rivalry with the Kolkata based club ATK Mohun Bagan. Even before the inception of Indian Super League, the states of Kerala and West Bengal had a long lasting rivalry in the Santosh Trophy. The club's rivalry with ATK started at the 2014 final, which ATK won in extra time. Both clubs once again met at the final in 2016, which the Blasters lost on penalties.[126] In 2020, ATK merged with the football section of multi-sport club Mohun Bagan to form ATK Mohun Bagan. [127]


Nimmagadda Prasad of Magnum Sports Private Limited, the parent company of Kerala Blasters

Kerala Blasters is owned by a company called Magnum Sports Private Limited,[128] which was earlier known as Blasters Sports Ventures Private Limited (BSVPL).[129] From 2014 to 2015, the club was co-owned by Prasad V. Potluri's PVP Group[130] and Indian former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.[129] Tendulkar took a stake in the club because he wanted to help popularise football in India and to see Kerala return to its former glory as a footballing state.[130] In May 2014, he said; "People used to call me Master Blaster. I'm supporting Kerala, Kochi team. I hope the entire Kerala will be behind our football team. That's why we thought of naming it as Kerala Blasters FC."[130] PVP group owned 60 percent of the club. In October 2015, Securities and Exchange Board of India, imposed a fine of ₹30 crore on PVP Group for not complying with diclosure terms, pushing the club into financial uncertainty.[131] To overcome the financial crisis, Tendulkar partnered with the club's main sponsor Muthoot Group, bought 40 percent from PVP Group's stake and acquired the majority stake at the club.[132]

In 2016, the club was took over by the Telugu film actors Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad and film producer Allu Aravind by buying its 80 percent stake. The 20 percent stake of the club remained with Tendulkar.[133][129] In September 2018, Tendulkar sold his remaining stake at the club to its majority shareholders for personal reasons, stating; "A piece of my heart will always beat for Kerala Blasters".[134]

Magnum Sports Private Limited also owns the Pro Kabaddi League team Tamil Thalaivas[135] and in 2020, entered in a partnership with Serbian volleyball club Radnicki Belgrade to form Radnicki Blasters, which plays in the Serbian First Division tournaments.[136][137]


Current squad

As of 26 September 2021[138][139]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
2 DF Bosnia and Herzegovina BIH Enes Sipović
3 DF India IND Sandeep Singh
4 DF India IND Ruivah Hormipam
5 DF India IND Nishu Kumar
7 MF India IND Puitea
8 MF India IND Ayush Adhikari
10 DF India IND Harmanjot Khabra
11 MF India IND Givson Singh
13 GK India IND Prabhsukhan Singh Gill
14 DF India IND Jessel Carneiro (captain)
15 DF India IND Sanjeev Stalin
17 FW India IND Rahul Kannoly Praveen
18 MF India IND Sahal Abdul Samad
19 DF India IND Denechandra Meitei
No. Pos. Nation Player
20 MF Uruguay URU Adrián Luna
22 MF India IND Seityasen Singh
24 MF India IND Prasanth K
25 MF India IND Jeakson Singh
26 DF India IND Abdul Hakku
30 FW Argentina ARG Jorge Pereyra Díaz (on loan from Platense)
31 GK India IND Sachin Suresh
32 GK India IND Albino Gomes
33 FW India IND Sreekuttan VS
47 FW India IND Vincy Barretto
55 DF Croatia CRO Marko Lešković
77 FW Bhutan BHU Chencho Gyeltshen
99 FW Spain ESP Álvaro Vázquez

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
49 FW India IND Subha Ghosh (at East Bengal until 31 May 2022)
23 FW India IND Naorem Mahesh Singh (at East Bengal until 31 May 2022)

Retired number(s)

Number Player Position Kerala Blasters Debut Last Match Ref
21 India Sandesh Jhingan Centre-back 21 October 2014 vs Chennaiyin 1 March 2019 vs NorthEast United [140]


Current technical staff

As of 10 July 2021
Role Name Refs.
Head Coach/Manager Serbia Ivan Vukomanović [141]
Assistant Coach Belgium Patrick Van Kets [142]
Assistant Coach India Ishfaq Ahmed [143]
Strength and conditioning coach Belgium Werner Martens [144]
Goalkeeping Coach Serbia Slaven Progovečki [144]
Reserves & U18 Head Coach India T. G. Purushothaman [145]
Scouting Head India Ishfaq Ahmed [146]


Position Name Refs.
Chairman/Director of Operations India Nikhil Bhardwaj [147]
Sporting Director Lithuania Karolis Skinkys [148]
Director of Football India Mohammed Rafik [149]
Technical Advisor of Reserves & Head of Grassroots Development Poland Tomasz Tchórz [150]
Team Manager India Manish Kochar [151]
Assistant Team Manager India Venu Gopal A.V [152]
Chief Revenue Officer India Joby Joseph [149]

Last updated: 10 July 2021
Source: [1]

Statistics and records

Season by season

As of 21 September 2021
Season League Finals Super Cup Other competitions Top league scorer(s)
P W D L GF GA Pts Position Durand Cup Player Goals
2014 14 5 4 5 9 11 19 4th Runners-up Did not exist

DNP Canada Iain Hume 5
2015 14 3 4 7 22 27 13 8th DNQ Tournament Suspended Grenada Antonio German

England Chris Dagnall

2016 14 6 4 4 12 14 22 2nd Runners-up DNP India C.K. Vineeth 5