Mumbai City FC seem to have finally come good this season. After finishing second bottom in the first edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) and third bottom in the last one, they’ve exceeded expectations by finishing top of the table in the group stages. The expectations weren’t high despite the presence of Diego Forlan and Sunil Chettri spearheading the attack.
To add to Mumbai’s improvement this season, they had qualified for the playoffs with a game to spare. The truth is, it isn’t a surprise, as Mumbai City FC have by far put up some of the best attacking displays in ISL 2016, a case in point being their 5-0 demolition of Kerala Blasters. So, can they go for the long haul now?
“We started well, winning our first two games on the trot,” manager Alexandre Guimaraes told The Indian Express, “We have qualified with a game to spare. We were never contenders for the title in the previous seasons but we are now. Now we have to make sure we maintain that stability and get more alert and competitive and get to the finals.”
The Costa Rican is one of five new managers to have introduced themselves to the ISL this season, four of whom have led their teams to the playoffs.
Guimaraes has managed teams across the world. His most prominent achievement though, would be leading his country, Costa Rica to the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups. He has also managed clubs in China and the UAE. “From what I have seen in the ISL, I have no complaints,” he said when asked about the quality of the training facilities here in India as compared to the other countries he has managed in.
“We have played in many grounds across the country now, they could be better but they are pretty good right now. The organisation of moving from one place to another, stay and medical staff everything is taken care of very well. At Mumbai City FC specifically I have seen a very professional medical department, travel department and from what I have seen, other teams are also on the same level,” he said.
He was more pragmatic about a longer ISL though, “At the end of the day it depends upon the organisation and I think it might be the next step for the ISL to take. But all the things that are being done well in a shorter period will have to be maintained.”
While Forlan was quick to start building his goal scoring tally in the ISL, Chhetri was relatively slower but he’s now picked up pace and is making a difference. Although he is yet to find the back of the net, the Bengaluru FC captain has been instrumental in Mumbai City’s attacking machinery since his return from the AFC Cup final loss. “Good players play better when they are surrounded by good players. Sunil has shown his versatility and he has the technical ability to play whichever way the team wants to play. He has shown that he is a winner and he shows this desire to win not just during the game but also during the practice sessions and during off-season. His professionalism is a real example for the younger players,” said Guimaraes.
When asked whether he would manage Mumbai City once again if he was asked next season, Guimaraes said that he was “really satisfied right now.” “I have had the support of the organisation the whole time. Right now, the only thing in my mind is to focus on the semi finals and then try to get the team to the finals. After that, we will see what’s next but for sure, till now I have been very happy.”
Mumbai City face 2014 champions Atletico de Kolkata at the latter’s Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Saturday in the first of the two-legged semi-finals.