Last year’s semi-finalists, Mumbai City FC, are gearing up for the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) with their head coach Alexandre Guimaraes on Thursday stressing his side has two of the finest goalkeepers in the squad.
Mumbai City FC kick-off their campaign with an away game against two-time I-League winners and ISL debutants, Bengaluru FC, on November 19. They are to play their first home game on November 25 at the Andheri Football Arena.
“I cannot say about the other teams. I can say that we have the two best goalkeepers in our side – Amrinder (Singh) and Arindam (Bhattacharya) – and one new guy like Kunal (Sawant), who is getting experienced and learning.
“I also (feel) that someday maybe (we) can see two of the best goal-keepers in India playing,” Guimaraes told a media conference. “So what we did in this season is that for our goalkeeping department we have got local players because we are interested to develop them,” quipped the Costa Rican, who coached the team last year too.
Last season the franchise lost in the play-off after topping the field in the league stage. The club had a successful pre-season camp in Spain, where they won four games, drew two and lost only one encounter. They also drew against top-flight Spanish side’s B team – Levante UD.
On the pre-season campaign, the Costa Rican said the overall result was positive. “The result is positive and we are building the team
from the beginning and the players understood the idea very fast what were are trying to introduce. They are doing the best they can and they are showing what we are asking them to do.
“My boss here (Ranbir Kapoor) has insisted that the players should play with their heart and they did that even in the pre-season. Even though it was pre-season, the players felt bad when we lost a game, so this is very good for a coach and for our staff,” Guimaraes said.
The side this year won’t be having the services of star footballers Sunil Chhetri and Diago Forlon, but the coach said the players had understood it was not about names but a collective effort of the team.
“I always like to talk about the players that we have. They contributed a lot to our great season last year. But now it is a new chapter and we have to deal with the players that we have and they have shown that they want to compete, to make Mumbai City FC fans proud of the team.
“We don’t have them (Chhetri and Forlon), but (have) other players Balwant(Singh), Sanju (Pradhan) and (Abinash) Ruidas, among others. This guy here (pointing to Amrinder) pushed hard in the pre-season,” he said.
“I am glad the players understand it is not about names but it is a collective (effort) and that is what we are trying to show from the beginning,” the 58-year-old coach added.
This time the ISL season is longer than its earlier editions. Asked whether Mumbai City FC did something different in the pre-season to prepare for it, the coach said they did not do anything out of the ordinary.
“No not really. We just had a totally different approach in terms of the quality of teams that we played in the pre-season; we played against very good teams in Spain, which pushed our players harder. This is something different than the last season,” the coach said.
“I think we are going step by step. Also during the pre-season, we have played some periods with this distribution (6 Indians and 5 foreigners), They (the foreign players) have shown that they are excited to play for us.”
Amrinder Singh, who played for Bengaluru FC in I-League last year, said he was excited to play against his former team in the first game.
“I have some good memories of playing there (in Bengaluru). It is a good thing that I am starting the season from that ground. In our lives, we have to move from club to club, so it will be a normal game (for me) and I am excited that I am playing against them,” said Amrinder Singh, who walked away with the Golden Glove award last year.