After a poor 2020-21 season, Kerala Blasters have made a great comeback in the ongoing Indian Super League season. They have garnered twenty-seven points from sixteen matches and are currently sitting just outside the top 4. Ivan Vukomanovic's Kerala Blasters is playing a very entertaining brand of attacking football. However, it's their defence that has been the talk of the town.
Bosnian defender Enes Sipovic has been an integral part of the Kerala defence. His aerial ability, calm and composed nature and warrior-like mentality have helped Kerala in their resurgence. In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, the Bosnian spoke up close and personal about his coach Ivan, competition and many more.
Enes Sipovic made his ISL debut with Chennaiyin FC in the previous season. After putting up a good performance with the Marina Machans, the defender moved to Kerala Blasters at the start of the season and adapted quickly.
"I would say easy. I have already known many players of Kerala Blasters for last season because we have played two times against each other and the adaptation period went smooth from the very first day," said the defender.
On their defensive solidarity
Kerala Blasters conceded thirty-six goals in the previous season and had the second-worst defence in the league. Coming into the season the Blasters did a complete overhaul in their defence, and it worked like a wonder. They conceded the least amount of goals and have given a tough time to every forward line.
When asked about the reason behind the defensive solidarity of their team, the Blasters defender explained, "Hard work, determination, and many other aspects which come with football are the reasons behind it. When you say defence, I see 11 players, not only four at back. We are together for a short period and I think this team can be only better in the future."
Combination with Marko Leskovic
Along with Enes, Marko Leskovic was roped in by Kerala Blasters, earlier this season. The pair since then has grown a lot and complimented each other very well. When asked about what Marko brings to their partnership, Sipovic expressed, "Marko is such a humble guy, we came from the same region, speak the same language, and our connection came naturally. Both of us had the opportunity to play together and also with Hormi and Bijoy. So actually, all of our centre backs have a nice relationship on the field and outside of it."
On Ivan Vukomanovic
After a disastrous season, Blasters brought in Ivan Vukomanovic. Ivan finally helped Kerala to build a strong team within his first season and brought joy to the fans. Kerala are pursuing their first playoffs appearance since 2016 and also fancying their maiden league title.
While praising Ivan, Enes shared, "I had the opportunity to play against coach Ivan in Belgium when he was the Head Coach of Standard Liege, and now, I train under him. Coach has brought something in the team of Kerala Blasters that was missing during last season that's an honest relationship between players and coaching staff.
"His methods of training are easy to understand for all players and at the same time training are interesting. Coach gives the players freedom on the field but at the same time, all players understand that there are certain rules that the coach request from them," added Sipovic.
On the League
After making his debut last season, Enes Sipovic is in his second season in Indian Super League. While praising the league and Indian players, the Bosnian Centre-back said, "Indian football is on the rise. Indian Super League has become a brand and that's very important for the country where football is not the number one sport. Each season, the championship is more interesting than the previous season and I believe the number of football lovers in India is growing. ISL is on a good way and in the future, I am sure we will see Indian players in some big tournaments."
On their eye-pleasing football
Kerala have played champagne football throughout the season. Added to that they are garnering a lot of points and have been a tough team to beat. The Bosnian defender believes that it was only possible because the management ticked all the boxes and did a great job.
"Management of the club has done a great job when we talk about recruitments, they think outside the box. Club has to take a coach who has experience at the high level of football, at the same time he knows how to take the best from the players (the way the coach approach players here I am not talking about tactics) and coach who will give chance to young guys," expressed the centre back.
"They didn't bring players who will be only attractive for fans, they take players that will bring positive impact on the group players that will make their teammates better football players and players with character to understand his role in the team," added Sipovic.
On their toughest match
Indian Super League 2021-22 has been arguably the toughest season for every team in the league. Till now, multiple teams are in the race for the league title and it seems that it will only be decided on the final matchday. When quizzed about the toughest game, Kerala played this season, the defender said, "ISL is pretty equal and all games require a high level of concentration and respect to the game. Each game separately brings a new experience, unfortunately, we still didn't have a chance to play in front of our supporters."
On his future
The Bosnian centre back signed for the Kerala Blasters at the start of the season on a year-long deal. He has already shown his class and risen as a fan favourite in the team. While discussing his future with us, he said, "Right now, I am fully concentrating on our next game season is not yet finished and I don't want to think about other things. My agent is there to take care of that I would be happy to stay in Kerala. From the very first day when my wife and I have arrived in Kochi, we felt amazing energy."
On Kerala's future
After being under the transition for a long time, Kerala has finally managed to build a team that doesn't have too many flaws. However, the team can only reach their full potential if Blasters management decides to keep them together for a long time.
"To keep the core of the team, that would be essential. Stability is very important. You have to know that this team is together for a very short period. If the team looks nice after just a few months of working you can imagine how it will be later. This team has potential and can be only better next season," Sipovic said.