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ISL 2019-20: Eelco Schattorie - People questioning Sahal Samad's role are not supporters

6:44 AM EST 11/7/19
Kerala Blasters vs ATK ISL 2019-20
Kerala Blasters host Odisha FC on Friday...

Kerala Blasters head coach Eelco Schattorie has stated that people questioning his decision regarding the role of Sahal Abdul Samad in the team this season are not supporters of the club.

The former NorthEast United head coach has received flak for naming the Kerala-born midfielder, who has grown in stature since joining the Yellow Army two years ago, on the bench for the first two matches of the season.

Blasters registered a win against ATK but lost to Mumbai City after conceding a late goal and the young midfielder wasn't a part of the starting lineup in either match, much to the surprise of the Kochi crowd. He started the third game against Hyderabad and assisted the team's only goal scored by Rahul KP before the opponents came from behind to win 2-1. Sahal was taken off the field in the second half. 

Maintaining that he has valid reasons to not start games with Sahal in midfield, the Dutch coach hit out at the critiques who has been questioning his decision to play the waiting game regarding the midfielder. 

"If there is one coach who thinks has a lot of experience working with talent, it is me. I will support talent at all times. In this case, it is with Sahal (Abdul Samad). If you are criticising it, they say the coach doesn't like Sahal. I am very happy with the player," he clarified.

Schattorie added, "Sahal comes from a football school from UAE, never played competitive football in his life, has amazing creativity that is pure intuition. To fit a guy like that into a system takes time. Last year, I had a few players, they played a lot of long balls and I don't think they got any coaching. In a system which has passing football, it takes a bit of time. Sahal made a mistake last game also but we did not lose because of him. I discussed it with Sahal himself. I don't find anything negative about it because that is football.

"People questioning that, they are not supporters, they are only looking at it from one angle."

The criticism keeps piling up partly due to the team's results as well. If the team starts winning matches consistently, Sahal's limited role this season may be overlooked. But Schattorie has not had it easy at the start, with injuries to key players halting the progress that he is trying to make with the squad. 

"All four goals conceded so far are from set-pieces. We should have won our last game mentally," the Kerala coach remarked. "The other team (Hyderabad) had only three foreigners. We had good chances. I had a revision of our three games, we had 43 crosses but how many are effective is another question. Our wingers are not stable and our midfield, we miss a key player. We lost (Gianni) Zuiverloon in defence in the last game. At this moment, it is all about surviving."