Kerala Blasters could not have bargained for a better mentor. The biggest name in international cricket, Sachin Tendulkar will bring his treasure trove of experience as he gets set to inspire his football team ahead of its first Indian Super League (ISL) match in Guwahati on Monday. (Also read: Sachin Tendulkar steals the show in ISL opening ceremony)
A legendary sportsperson for over two decades, co-owner Tendulkar will be in Guwahati to cheer for Kerala Blasters as the team makes its debut against NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. He is also expected to give a pep talk to the team which boasts of players like goalkeeper David James of England and Liverpool fame and Michael Chopra.
While players will take the centerstage, the spotlight is expected to hover around Tendulkar, much like it did during Sunday's colourful opening ceremony in Kolkata. Tendulkar was among a Who's Who of celebrities as the inaugural ISL kicked off at the Salt Lake Stadium with much fanfare.
Tendulkar's presence though is expected to not just add glamour but play a key role in galvanizing an already strong Kerala Blasters side. "There is a lot of determination as far as the players are concerned," he had said earlier.
"I am very happy that we have members from all the continents and also from across the country. It's necessary to keep the dressing room in good spirits." And it is with this precise objective that Tendulkar will look to emerge more than just an owner for the side.
The task though won't be a walk in the park.
A fanatical home following is likely to motivate hosts NorthEast United, co-owned by Bollywood actor John Abraham. The Ricki Herbert-coached also boasts of an attacking forward line led by Cornell Glen. The former Trinidad & Tobago World Cupper, who has past Indian experience with Shillong Lajong, is expected to front an incisive attack which has Luis Padilla, James Keene, Sergio Pardo, and Seimenlen Doungel as the support options. Expect Colin Falvey, Cedric Hengbert, Jamie McAllister and other rocks in the Kerala defence to secure their fortress with great determination. (Also read: John Abraham believes success of ISL crucial for Indian football)
Another NorthEast United FC player who will also have his share of spotlight is Alexandros Tzarvos, Greece's 2010 World Cup goalkeeper. His presence under the bar will lend assurance to his teammates. A clean sheet will be his great contribution to the cause.
Kerala Blasters on the other hand, will rely on the seasoned Penn Orji. Coach Trevor Morgan, who has tasted success with East Bengal, may rely on his trusted former hand to unlock the home defence which will be helmed by marquee player Joan Capdevila, a former Spanish World Cupper.
(With inputs from IANS)