The Yellow Sea will welcome both Hyderabad FC and Kerala Blasters FC as both teams take on the Indian Super League trophy at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda in the same color donation with the hope of winning their respective seasons crown here on Sunday. It has been a memorable season for both Hyderabad and Kerala, with the 2021-22 hero ISL reaching the pinnacle of the season due to some impressive performances. Hyderabad is second in the table with 38 points while Kerala is fourth with 34 points.
On Sunday, both outfits will have the opportunity to show off their strength in front of a packed house with fans allowed to return to the stand after a gap of two years.
Tickets were sold in record time with a large crowd of Kerala fans in Goa to see their favorite stars in action. The buzz was no less for Hyderabad, which has reached the final for the first time.
“We are just happy to be here. It was a tough season. Living in a bio-bubble for five months was mentally challenging. Our strength is the team we have, the players and the staff. We are all working in the same direction, “Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez told reporters on the eve of the mega clash.
“We were very close last season (to qualify for the semifinals), this time we finished second in the table.
It’s just a game and anything can happen tomorrow. We know we have a tough opponent but I’m sure they think the same about us, “he added.
“It’s wonderful (to play against the fans). For football fans. Having fans is always good for the players and everyone involved, “said the Spaniard when asked about the fans returning to the stands. The captain sitting next to him was Joao Victor.” Every team wants to get back on the stand. The final. We have to be ready and we are ready, “he said.
In the semifinals, Hyderabad beat ATK Mohun Bagan 3-2 on two legs overall, winning the first game 3-1 and losing the second match 0-1. Kerala, meanwhile, beat League Shield winners Jamshedpur 2-1 overall, winning the first match 1-0 to hold the Man of Steel to a 1-1 draw.
Like Hyderabad, Bartholomew Ogbecheni has had a fantastic season, scoring a record 18 goals in 19 games and topping the goal scoring chart in the competition with 53 strikes to his name.
“It’s great for the fans to be back. We will try to do well for them,” the Nigerian told the final. Ogbech also reserved special praise for the organizers of Hero ISL, saying that maintaining two bio-secure bubbles is not easy.
“I would like to give a lot of credit to AIFF (All India Football Federation), FSDL, Reliance Foundation for what they did last year. Bubble is something that has never been done before and was a huge success last season. He helped me experience the bubble this season, so I think last season was more difficult, “said the 37-year-old.
For Kerala, they will probably have the biggest 12th man for the final in the form of their fans who brought down the roof when the Yellow Army beat Jamshedpur to reach their third final. Social media was flooded with scenes of celebration across the state and elsewhere and on Sunday they will make their presence felt at Fatorda.
“We have come back strong this season. We are grateful for that. We are very happy with what we have achieved so far. We hope for the best, “said Kerala head coach Ivan Vukomanovic.
Asked about the fans returning to the stands, he added: “We play football for the fans. I think the last few months have been fantastic playing without fans. Now it is an additional inspiration for all players. As a boy, you would dream of playing against your local fans. “
Hyderabad and Kerala Heroes have faced each other six times in the ISL so far, each winning three times without a draw. Adrian Luna is Ogbechen’s answer to Kerala and Spaniard is the main figure in his journey so far. Although players like Alvaro Vazquez, Marco Leskovic and Jorge Diaz have also played important roles, Luna has been outstanding for Kerala despite scoring six goals and contributing 13 goals, only Ogbach is more involved than Luna in this regard.