Luca SC Intent To Improve From Last Season’s Hiccup

Luca Soccer Club (Luca SC) Malappuram is a popular name in the Kerala football circuit for the past 5 years.  The club was founded by Mr. Navas KV, and he named the club after the Italian legend Luca Toni who was an idol of Mr. Navas. They have been participating in Kerala Premier League (KPL) for the past 3 years and they have a women’s team as well which plays in the Kerala Women’s League (KWL).

Athletic India got the opportunity to have a conversation with Mr. Abdul Azeez, Head of Operations Luca SC, about the ongoing KWL campaign and plans for the upcoming KPL. The excerpts are given below.

Luca SC won the silverware in the Bodousa Cup last year and had decent pre-season going into KPL. Despite having a decent squad and proper pre-season preparation, Luca SC underperformed in the last edition of KPL.  This year, the KL10 blues are determined to rectify all the mistakes that happened last season.

Last season we had a good squad. However, few of our key players left in between for inter-university tournaments. The departure of those key Indian players weakened our squad and four of them who played in the university matches suffered injuries also. Apart from that, our 2 key players, Tejas and Joel received contracts from Kerala Blasters and Chennayin FC and one of our foreign center-back couldn’t arrive due to the COVID pandemic.

Besides that, our players never experienced a longer football season before. They had to stay away from home for pre-season and KPL which eventually resulted in the mental exhaustion of players. Consequently, we had to give them a break to improve their mental well-being in between KPL when the matches came to a temporary halt due to an outbreak of COVID. The break helped the players to rejuvenate but their fitness took a blow when they stayed away from the camp resulting in unremarkable performances.

To avoid the recurrence of those problems, this year, we have partnered with GEMS college (under Calicut University) for the education and training of their players. Due to this partnership, the players of Luca SC can play together even for university matches as a team representing GEMS college. The training of the college squad will be undertaken by Luca SC and hence the playing style will remain the same as that of the club in the university matches as well,” Azeez said.

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The Malappuram-based outfit is in active talks for a similar partnership for their women’s squad.

Luca SC players are currently camping at Assam to participate in the Independence Day Cup and will play at least 2 more tournaments which will include the Bodousa cup. They aim to reach I-league 2nd division in the next two years by securing the KPL title.

Luca SC players posing for a photo before their departure to Assam

We have shortlisted 3 foreigners for this season and one will join us in Assam for a trial. We are working to get a sponsor so that we can finalise the signings. This year, 8 of our academy players have been promoted to the senior squad and we have one of the youngest squads for this KPL. A major chunk of these players is given 3 years contract with a vision to keep them with us for long so that we can develop a strong squad. Due to the COVID pandemic, the inflow of funds dried up and the club needs support from the corporate sector to keep the operations going in full swing,” Azeez continued.

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Last season, KWL was restarted after a hiatus of 5 years and hence Luca SC had to race against time to prepare a competitive squad. Besides that, they had no funds allocated for the women’s team in their budget. However, the management decided to take part in KWL and they formed a squad with available local players. Preparation went haphazard due to a lack of time and funds, and they had to play against teams like Gokulam Kerala FC which had foreigners and quality Indian players. Consequently, the results were disastrous but the management took it positively and considered it a learning point. 

This year we are better prepared as compared to last year even though we have no international players on our roster. This year, we won 1 match out of the 3 played. We have assembled a few players from Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand to add more strength to our team. Obviously, as the player pool (women) in Kerala is limited, there will be a huge disparity between the clubs. The available superior players went to clubs like Kerala Blasters and Gokulam Kerala. However, the situation will improve within a couple of seasons and we will have a substantial number of players to choose from. The 50% reservation for Keralites in playing XI and limiting the number of foreigners to one in playing XI will bring parity between the teams soon”.

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Luca SC recently started a training program for girls in association with a school in Morayoor, Malappuram. Currently, the training sessions are organized every weekend and the plan is to expand this initiative to a proper academy for women.  The management is keen to invest more in the women’s team and they are trying to rope in a sponsor.

The 2022-2023 KPL matches will be on home and away basis and Luca SC has chosen Kottapadi football stadium as their home ground where the Santosh trophy was held recently. The Technical Director, Mr. Torben Witajewski, who joined the club last year but arrived late due to COVID-related travel restrictions will take the role of the senior team coach this year.

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