Sacked Kerala Blasters coach Schattorie had 'sensed major structural overhaul'

Last week, Kerala Blasters appointed Kibu Vicuna as their new head coach

vicuna-schattorie Kibu Vicuna (left); Eelco Schattorie

Dutch tactician Eelco Schattorie, who parted ways with the Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters after one season at the helm of affairs, said there had been some clear indications of the new management’s disinterest in extending his contract with the team.

His revelation came during an interactive session with ISL fans on Superpower Football, an Instagram channel dedicated to football buffs.

Last week, Blasters appointed Mohun Bagan’s I-League-winning coach Kibu Vicuna as their new head coach for the upcoming season. “I could sense a major structural overhaul when the franchise roped in some scouting and recruitment experts and consultants from Serbia towards the end of 2019. When a new team of decision-makers takes over, it is so natural that they would go for a head coach of their choice. Being somebody with years of coaching experience, I got wind of these developments and I was certain that changes were inevitable,” he said.

Schattorie, who replaced Nelo Vingada as the Blasters head coach after leading NorthEast United to their best-ever campaign in the club's history in the 2018-19 season, however, could not live up to the expectations as the Kochi-based side finished seventh on the 10-team table with 19 points from 18 matches.

“Of course, the team could finish seventh, but that does not tell the whole story. That’s why I’m disappointed with the management’s decision. I had laid the foundation to take the team forward and I still believe I was the right person to do that. Sadly, the management thought otherwise,” Schattorie, who is currently in Oman with his family, said in response to a query posted by a fan.

“When I travelled to Serbia to make presentations to the club hierarchy some months back, I had conveyed my concerns over the team to them. My priority had always been to build a good squad and accomplish success with passion, teamwork and dedication at all levels. I wanted all the decision-makers, including club owners, CEO and the coaching staff to be part of the recruitment process. I had never been reluctant to express my concerns and criticisms. For example, I had brought the management’s attention to issues that eventually handicapped the team’s campaign such as the pre-season fiasco and recurring injuries to key players. We cannot share every internal matter with the media. I had full support of the club management and the CEO. The season ended in October and it was up to the franchise to take a call. And the decision to end my contract did not come as a surprise. When new investors come in, obviously they’ll have fresh ideas and plans for the club,” he said.

The 48-year-old who has over 20 years of coaching experience, mostly in the Middle East, said that of the seven foreign players recruited by Blasters last season, five were handpicked by him and the management. “The club had completed the signing of both (Mario) Arques and Cido (Sergio Cidoncha) before I took over. Also, I had no role in picking Indian players.

“I believe I could change the team’s style of play and there were a lot of admirers for the free-owing style of football. The strategy was to attack relentlessly and it did yield results. Blasters scored a total of 29 goals, the highest in their history and the fourth-highest in the league last season.”

Injuries, ultimately, proved to be a bane for the Kerala Blasters, and Schattorie. “The injury to stopper Sandesh Jhingan was a heavy blow. It came barely five days before the season opener and he could not play a single game. The story would have been different if he was available. The team sorely missed his solid presence and fearlessness in the backline.”

Schattorie declined to comment on his successor Vicuna. “I don’t know him (Kibu Vicuna) personally. Also, I don’t want to comment on another coach.”

The Dutchman is yet to be approached by any Indian club. “I’m looking forward to coach at the highest level. I want to explore possibilities in the Europe. So far, no Indian club has approached me.”

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