Álvaro Vázquez is the latest heartthrob in “God’s own country”. One of the most high-profile foreigners to arrive on Indian shores in recent times, the Spanish forward has been a prolific scorer in European club football.
Hailing from Barcelona, Vázquez has played most of his football in Spain except a brief loan spell at English Premier League club Swansea City in the 2013-14 season.
After rising through the youth ranks at Espanyol, he made his senior professional debut for Espanyol B in 2009-10. The 30-year old has appeared in over 150 La Liga matches since then, including long stints at Espanyol’s first-team and Getafe.
He also made 12 EPL appearances for Swansea without registering a goal. In addition, he represented Spain at the U-20, U-21, and U-23 levels, and won the Silver Boot in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Vázquez’s acquisition by Kerala Blasters FC from Segunda División side Sporting de Gijón during this year’s summer transfer window generated massive buzz.
From the moment he put pen to paper, the diehard KBFC fans found a new hero to look up to. Despite assembling strong squads year after year, the Tuskers have never reached the pinnacle of the Indian Super League. Can Vázquez guide KBFC to their maiden ISL title and be the messiah for the Yellow Army? Only time will tell.
Fresh off their first ISL-8 victory against Odisha FC last Sunday, Kerala Blasters will take on SC East Bengal at Vasco’s Tilak Maidan Stadium on December 12. A couple of days before the game, we chatted exclusively with Vázquez about his maiden ISL goal, the Indian players in his team, the passionate KBFC fans, and FC Barcelona’s tumultuous run.
Excerpts from the interview with Alvaro Vasquez
Q: How satisfied is Alvaro Vazquez after bagging his first ISL goal last Sunday?
Vazquez: I am feeling great after scoring my first ISL goal and helping my team win the 3 points at stake against Odisha!
Q: Kerala Blasters didn’t have the best of starts, losing their first match and drawing the next two. How is the mood in the camp after the win against Odisha FC? How helpful has the 6-day break been before the next game against SC East Bengal?
Vazquez: The team is confident and has full faith in the work the coach is doing. It is always important to have a healthy break every week to rest and prepare for the games.
Q: You’ve played all your club football in Spain barring a brief stint at Swansea City in 2013-14. How challenging has it been to adapt to the Indian conditions, and why is the ISL becoming such a popular destination among the Spanish players, especially those playing in the Segunda division?
Vazquez: Every change carries a risk, but I am very comfortable in India.
I don’t know [the reason behind the Spanish players’ liking for India], but you are right. There are many Spanish players here and they are of a very high quality. Spain has a lot of players and not all of them can compete in La Liga.
Q: Did you have any prior idea about Indian football before receiving KBFC’s offer? What are your thoughts on the Indian players in your team, in terms of quality?
Vazquez: The KBFC management informed me about the ISL and I got a very positive vibe.
Most of the Indian players in my team are young with a very promising future. They have to keep working hard and they will make history!
Q: Your next match is against the bottom-placed SC East Bengal on Sunday. Are KBFC the favorites for that game? How confident are you of exploiting their vulnerable defense and securing a win?
Vazquez: There is never a favorite in this league. The game must be played very seriously if we want to get the 3 points.
Q: KBFC have one of the most passionate fanbases in India called Manjappada. Is this finally going to be KBFC’S season? What is your message to the fans?
Vazquez: Winning the ISL is very difficult and we have to work very hard throughout the season. I am an ambitious player and I always want the best for my team. I can tell you that we’re on the right track.
It’s really unfortunate not to have the fans in the stadiums. I would like to thank them all for their overwhelming support on social media!
Q: Espanyol’s arch-rivals Barcelona have been relegated to the UEFA Europa League. Do you think Xavi’s tenure as the FCB coach can turn their fortunes around?
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Vazquez: Barcelona will take at least two years to rebuild the team, both football-wise and financially.
Q. Who do you think will be Kerala Blasters FC’s leading goal scorer this season?