It could be the Carles Cuadrat effect. Or it could just be what this particular time of the season entails for coaches. With the Indian Super League (ISL) well and truly into the second half of the season, the men at the helm — especially of those sides outside the top half of the standings — are a jittery lot. Bengaluru FC sacked Cuadrat on Wednesday, and a day later, when Odisha FC beat Kerala Blasters FC 4-2, one could sense that sinking feeling in Kibu Vicuna’s words.
It was a much-needed first victory and perhaps a relief for Odisha’s beleaguered coach Stuart Baxter — who would’ve been odds on favourite to be the first sacking of the season instead of Cuadrat. Baxter lives. KBFC coach Vicuna wants to live too and so he apologised for the side’s poor performance in the match to the fans.
Also Read | I-League 2021 Countdown: Gokulam Kerala, Chennai City FC and the South Indian Intrigue
“First, I want to say sorry to the Kerala Blasters fans because our performance tonight wasn't good enough,” began Vicuna.
“After this match, it's very difficult to feel good about the work we are doing. Especially after the second goal, we turned off. They (Odisha FC) won every second ball and dominated us on the field. It is very difficult to analyse this game because we have very few positives to take,” he added.
To start with, it is very difficult to understand the sense in Vicuna’s apology. Shouldn’t he be apologizing for the side’s poor returns through the seasona and not just for the match. They are, after all, second last and the loss against Odisha is not exactly an aberration in result. It has been more of a norm.
The sense of saying a sorry, in general, is well understood. We are all, after all, masters of the apology in life. But we say sorry if our error was deliberate or within our control. On a sports field, a loss is not usually in one person or one team’s control. If Odisha FC, strugglers as they are, beat Blasters, then the truth would be that on the given day, they were the better side, or rather, they were lesser strugglers. We often talk about how sports teams or athletes commit mistakes, or play below par. Invariably, such slides are caused by opponents playing better, forcing those errors or less than ideal performances.
So was there a sorry required? Well, Vicuna is bracing for impact and hoping the many million strong Manjappada — KBFC’s social media savvy fan army — would empathize, sympathize and be with him in case the management decides to wield the axe. Not that it would make much of a difference though. We should not forget that we are talking about the ISL here, where the clubs are corporate entities, and not community initiatives.
Since it’s a season for apologies: Sorry for the digression…
So here we go. Full credit to Odisha FC for getting the primate off their backs.
It was Kerala who drew first blood in the match though, through Jordan Murray in the seventh minute despite Odisha seeming to be the side fastest off the block. After the goal, Odisha clawed their way back, helped in the cause by a Jeakson Singh own goal in the 22nd minute. One still remembers how Jeakson had become India’s first and only player to score a goal at a World Cup (U-17 WC in 2017 in his case). Thursday’s goal is something he would want everyone to forget.
Also Read | Nonexistent Club in Governing Council of National Motorsports Federation as Founder Member for 49 Years
Odisha then took the lead through Steven Taylor (42'). It was at this point when Blasters completely lost the plot.
Diego Mauricio's second-half brace (50', 60') then took the match away from Blasters, though a Gary Hooper strike in the 79th minute gave them some consolation. A resurgence could be sensed in the Kerala squad after the goal but the Odisha defense remained resolute.
WIth the result, Odisha still stayed last in the standings, but the removal of zero from the matches won column would definitely make them feel better, and in the coming matches, maybe play better and with confidence. Kerala are 10th, with six points and the same number of victories as Odisha. Both sides have played nine matches so far.
In a league where promotion and relegation is the norm, these two sides would have been battling it out to save their spot in the division. One is finding it difficult to understand what exactly these sides would be playing for in the upcoming matches. Yes, of course, they could play for pride. But what is pride in a closed league like ISL?
Maybe one should apologise for not understanding football motivation. A sorry could save many things. A coach’s job too perhaps. At least that is what Vicuna would be hoping.
Read more sports stories from Newsclick