BY MANASI PATHAK
Mumbai City FC, who were first-time semi-finalists in the 2016 chapter of the Indian Super League (ISL), will be led by Costa Rican Alexandre Guimaraes this year too. The Islanders achieved their best ever performance in ISL history under the 58-year-old coach last season.
Speaking about the team’s pre-season in Spain where they won four matches, drew twice and lost just once, Guimaraes commented, ‘’We were building a fairly new team during the pre-season in Spain. The team understood the idea that we want to introduce now. They pushed very hard and showed what we asked for.’’
Further he explained the reaction of the boys in the 2-3 loss against Elche ‘B’ stating that he was glad to see the players disheartened by a defeat in even a friendly game. ‘’When we lost, the players suffered; this was needed because when you lose a match, there exists an ill feeling which was seen in the players. And as a coach to see that they were disappointed after a loss despite it being a friendly was good,’’ expressed Guimaraes.
The ISL will be a four-month-long affair this season with two new entrants. On being asked if the team prepared specially for the new format of the league, coach answered, ‘’We didn’t really plan our pre-season differently for a longer ISL season. We have a totally different approach now following the quality sides we played against during the pre-season. In Spain having faced top opposition, our players had to push harder."
Amrinder Singh and Arindam Bhattacharya were roped in by Mumbai City FC for a whopping sum of approximately 2 crores INR. Guimaraes rates the two goalkeepers highly and also reserves some words of praise for Kunal Sawant, who is the third choice custodian in the squad.
‘’What we did differently this year from last season is that in the goalkeeping department, we have maintained domestic players. We have two of the best ‘keepers in Amrinder (Singh) and Arindam (Bhattacharya) and in local boy Kunal (Sawant), we have a player who is getting experience and learning at the same time,’’ explained the ex-Tianjin Teda gaffer.
With the opening tie against The Blues in Bengaluru, Amrinder Singh will face his former side. The Punjab-born player is keen to come back to Kanteerava, where he has had some noteworthy performances.
"I have had very good memories during my two years at Kanteerava. So, it feels positive for me to start the fourth season of ISL from there,’’ he said.
Finally club co-owner and Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor had a message for the fans in Mumbai as he requested the supporters to back his blue army. ‘’We are trying to build and popularize football in the country. So, we really urge everyone to come to the stadium and support Mumbai City. The club exists because of the fans and therefore I urge the fans to come and cheer the boys as a strong fan base is very important for Mumbai City FC,’’ he mentioned.