The ISL 2021/22 season has been one of the toughest challenges for everyone confined in the bio-bubble in Goa for the last five months, but Kerala Blasters have their easiest assignment of the season against Hyderabad FC in the final on Sunday, their coach Ivan Vukomanovic said.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference at the training ground where the Kerala team has been based, he said, "Speaking as an ex-player and coach, these are the easiest games to play. Every child who starts kicking around a ball at home thinking he'll be a footballer dreams of these games. The motivation is already there."
With gates being thrown open to fans for the ISL final after two years, the number of fans travelling from Kerala is expected to far outnumber Hyderabad's.
Speaking on the Manjappada horde, which will be drowning all other voices at the Fatorda stadium on Sunday, the coach said the on-field support will also make Kerala's job easier.
"Football is played for fans. It was weird, not nice, to have played in empty stadiums for the last 2 years.
"When a player dreams of playing, he dreams of playing for his people, for his own town, to point to his logo when he scores. That is the joy of football."
Does this frenzy of support also lead to the pressure of expectations? The coach answered with an emphatic no.
"To be associated with such an energetic fan base gives me goosebumps. It makes me want to belong to this family.
"So many people have to do so many things for their livelihood. For the few of us who have the privilege of working in football, these games only give joy."
Like Hyderabad FC coach Manolo Marquez, the Kerala coach also said game plans and strategies are going to play much less of a role in the final than mentality.
"One moment of inspiration will decide the winner of the title," Vukomanovic signed off.