NEW DELHI: The announcement of promotion from the I-League to the Indian Super League had come as a welcome change for Gokulam Kerala FC, who won back-to-back I-League titles in 2020-21 and 2021-22. While the more recent 2022-23 season proved slightly less productive for the Malabarians, the efforts to make it to Indian Football’s top flight are in full flow down at the club’s base in Kozhikode, Kerala.
To that extent, Gokulam Kerala have signed the Spanish duo of Nili Perdomo and Alejandro Sanchez, with the aim of addressing their woes up front after they netted only 26 goals from 22 I-League matches, finishing third last season.
Playmaker Perdomo not only comes with the vast experience of playing in both Spain and Greece but has also had a brief stint in India with Bengaluru FC in the 2019-20 season when he made 10 appearances for the club in the ISL and the AFC Cup Preliminary Round 2 and Play-off matches before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“This is the second time I’ll be playing in India, and I’m really looking forward to my time here. I had played earlier with Bengaluru, but that time was cut short because of COVID,” said Perdomo to the-aiff.com. “Gokulam Kerala are certainly one of the bigger clubs in India, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about them from other Spanish players that had come here before, so when I learnt that they were interested in me, it was a quick decision.”
A week after Perdomo’s signing, Sanchez also joined Gokulam Kerala, as he spent seven days in pre-season camp, followed by the team’s campaign in the Durand Cup during the silly season of 2023-24.
“This is my first time in India, and it’s been an amazing experience so far. It’s so different from Spain. I’ve really enjoyed my time in both Kozhikode and Kolkata,” said Sanchez. “I am still in the process of getting used to the life and culture here, but my teammates have been very helpful in that regard.”
Striker Alejandro Sanchez is from the Real Zaragoza youth system and has also played for CA Osasuna in Spain, before spending two seasons with Australian side Sydney Olympic FC.
“I’ve heard a lot about India and of Gokulam Kerala as well, that it is one of the bigger clubs in the I-League. We obviously aim to reach the top level in ISL, and I’ll be trying to use all my experience to help the club get there,” said Sanchez. “On a personal level, I want to score as many goals as possible for my club and help them reach their target.”
India has become a rather attractive destination for Spanish footballers over the better part of the last decade. What has made it so? According to the two latest signings of Gokulam Kerala, it is the inherent growth of Indian Football over the years.
“From what I have seen, football is growing in the country. The National Team has been doing really well, and I was impressed with their recent wins in the SAFF Championship too,” said Perdomo. “I think India is steadily preparing to go to a higher level of football, which makes it very interesting. A lot of players from Europe are talking about coming here. The future is certainly bright.”
Sanchez, who has already had a taste of Asian football in Australia, believes it is imperative that football in the continent keeps growing, and that the Indian game is an integral part of it.
“I’ve heard a lot about India from other Spanish players who have been here, it’s been growing at a fast pace and I certainly want to be a part of it. For the world of football, it is important that Asia, and more specifically, India keeps growing in the sport,” said Sanchez. “Now that I am here, I want to be a role model for youngsters growing up, dreaming of making it as a professional one day.”
Gokulam Kerala are currently participating in the Durand Cup, where they have been drawn in Group C, alongside Bengaluru FC, Indian Air Force, and Kerala Blasters FC, with their matches scheduled to be played in Kolkata. Following the Durand Cup, the Malabarians will begin their I-League campaign.