It has been more than a couple of months that Kolkata football giants Mohun Bagan clinched their second I-league title with four games remaining in hand. Though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic played spoilsport on their celebration plans, the emotions and the adrenaline rush seem to still remain intact as The Bridge catches up with Kibu Vicuna, the man behind all the success.
The former Bagan coach engages in a candid chat as he talks about his journey so far in India, his tenure at the Kolkata-based club and his future plans at Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Kerala Blasters. Following are excerpts:
The Bridge: Kibu, this was your first time in India and you have won the league for one of the Kolkata giants in your first tenure. How was your overall experience?
Kibu: My time in Mohun Bagan has been fantastic. I had a very good feeling from the very beginning; the directors, members of the club and the supporters came up with a very positive vibe from the very moment I reached Kolkata. I think we had a strong team and together created a very good atmosphere in the dressing room along with playing a good brand of football on the pitch. And that’s why we succeeded in winning the league.
The Bridge: What made you choose Kerala Blasters as your next destination?
Kibu: Kerala Blasters contacted me with a good project to build up a strong team. They want me to try and create a good team that can compete at par with the other teams in the league. The facilities that that the club proposed to provide the players and most importantly the strong fan base attracted me to make this move. Considering all this, I decided to join Kerala Blasters for the next season.
The Bridge: Reports claim that a bunch of Bagan players are all set to join Blasters along with you, give us an insight on how you are preparing for the next season?
Kibu: I will always like to continue working with the payers I have worked previously with. We wish to build a good strong team for Kerala and perhaps we will have some of the Mohun Bagan players joining us here for the next season. But it’s the future which will answer the names.
The Bridge: As you are now going to coach a completely new side in a new league, how much tougher do you think it will be?
Kibu: I think the competitions are really similar in these two levels. We will face a good competition with good teams and good foreigners. In Indian football, the scene is five foreigners and six local players with whom we will try to create our style as we try to develop our game. And if the things we will be doing goes well, we will get good results.
The Bridge: What’s your take on the AIFF’s proposal of reducing the number of foreigners in the Indian Leagues?
Kibu: Foreign players are important to the point that Indian players develop a lot and can mature playing with them. The local players are learning very fast about the foreign players so if AIFF thinks of this move they should make it gradually.
The Bridge: You made a statement this season by giving opportunities to young players like Nongdamba Naorem, Sk. Sahil, Shankar Roy. Not every coach wants to put immediate stock in untested players..what is your philosophy when it comes to youngsters?
Kibu: As I have said earlier, they have been as important and key players in the team as experienced players like Dhanachandra, Asutosh Mehta, Gurjinder and all. What I think is that the youngsters help a team very much and I try to treat all the players equally irrespective of their experience cause for me if they play well, they are in the team.
Kibu Vicuna (Source: SN_CA_Soccer)
The Bridge: Senior players like VP Suhair, Ashutosh Mehta and Dhanachandra have also flourished under you. What’s your take on their performance and will you like to bring them to Blasters with you?
Kibu: Suhair, Ashutosh, Dhanachandra, Chullova....all the experienced players played very important roles for me this season. They have done fantastic in their jobs on and off the field which actually lead to this whole success. I wish them the best for the future whether they play under me or not. Because they are very good players.
The Bridge: Looking at the Indian football ecosystem for a whole season, what according to you are the strengths?
Kibu: The players are hungry to learn the game and understand the game. They are eager to get mature and they push their game to be better and better. This, I think, is a very important thing in a player if you want to be a better footballer in future.
The Bridge: What are the areas that you think Indian football needs to improve to go to the next level?
Kibu: For me the academies need to be given the right guidance. If Indian football gets a better infrastructure today with good methodologies, these boys are going to lead Indian football to a very good level in some years.
The Bridge: What was the best moment of your tenure here at Mohun Bagan and what was the toughest decision you had to take?
Kibu: I enjoyed every time with the club starting from the trainings, the games the travel session sand all. But the moment we defeated Aizwal with 1-0 in our home ground was the best moment for me in Mohun Bagan as we mathematically won the league that day, becoming the champions of India gave me a feeling of another kind.
The toughest decision was to release players that started the preseason with us. We had too many players and there were not place to everyone
The Bridge: Your message for the Mohun Bagan fans and Kerala Blasters fan.
Kibu: I want to thank the Mohun Bagan fans a lot for believing in me and I am very happy to make them proud by fetching our objective. I will really miss them a lot. To the Kerala Blasters fans, I can assure one thing that I will give my best to build in a very strong team this time as we aspire to compete well in the league. We need your support as it works as a big strength and motivation to work hard and well on the field.