Former Indian Super League Champions – Mumbai City FC are all set to make their mark in the 131st edition of India’s oldest football tournament viz. the Durand Cup. Head coach Des Buckingham along with defender Rahul Bheke addressed the media before kicking off their maiden Durand Cup game against Indian Navy.
The Islanders ended their last season on a high as they finished second in their group bagging two wins at the AFC Champions League and rewriting the history books by becoming the first ever Indian club to do so in the group stage of the prestigious tournament.
“For me as a coach, for the club and for the players we want to continue where we left off in the AFC Champions League, to give players more opportunities to showcase what they can do. It’s the first competitive game of the season and for me the Durand Cup will be very important to pick off from where we concluded the last season,” mentioned the Mumbai City gaffer as he made his intent clear.
Des Buckingham on Mumbai City FC’s recruitment –
Mumbai City FC owned by the City Football Group are reckoned for their big signings and recruitment philosophy. The Islanders made their presence felt in the transfer market as they brought in some celebrated names for the upcoming season.
“I am very happy about the side that we currently have. We have managed to retain a very core playing group from the last season, having changed only six players so far. When I look at the last Champions League game that we played against Air Force Club (Iraq), we have 10 out of the 11 players from the teamsheet with us. We’ve a good base for this season and the new foreign recruits – Alberto Noguera, Greg Stewart, Rostyn Griffiths and Jorge Pereyra Diaz have managed to adapt well into our style of football.”
“Most of the time foreign recruits take time to adapt to the league in a new country and to the style of play, so we are glad to find three (out of four) new foreign recruits from within the league. We have seen them perform constantly for their respective clubs over the past seasons and they have adjusted very well in our player group. I am very happy with the recruitment and we’ll look forward to strengthening the squad further,” stated the head coach as he summed up the recruitment for the season.
Des Buckingham on Pre-season –
Pre-season plays a very crucial part for any team. Des Buckingham and co. have made the most out of the pre season as he quipped, “We were able to finish the last season a bit later than other teams, the AFC Champions League meant we had a shorter off season which is obviously good for the team. We had a good camp in Dubai around July end before heading to Kolkata. We all are preparing for a longer season this time than what it was 5-6 years back with the Durand Cup and the Super Cup coming into the picture.
We have worked hard, we have most of our players here and the preparations have been great. We want the players to be well trained before they are exposed to games and we want them to be all fit.”
Des Buckingham on Gurkirat Singh’s remarkable feat –
19 year old center forward – Gurkirat Singh is undoubtedly one of the most talked about youngsters in the City camp. After his heroics for the Indian National Team at the SAFF U20 Championship he has grabbed many eyeballs.
Coach Des Buckingham seems to be impressed with the youngster too as he stated, “What Gurkirat (Singh) did at the SAFF U20 Championship was wonderful, to score 8 goals for your country is a great achievement in itself. As a club we’re proud of what he has achieved for the country. Last year he got some game time in the ISL and he also made his debut in the AFC Champions League, back then he was only 18 years of age and he’ll definitely get more opportunities this season and in the Durand Cup as well.”
Mumbai City FC to lock horns with Kolkata Giants –
Mumbai City FC is drawn in a very competitive group which also features fan favorites and two of the most successful teams of the tournament – ATK Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Speaking about the same Des Buckingham mentioned, “ATK Mohun Bagan and Emami East Bengal are two wonderful clubs. I have heard about the crowds and the turnout here, and I’m looking forward to seeing them in the stadium. We have two good games against these teams and it’ll be a very interesting group for us.”
Goals for the season –
Rounding off the press conference, Des outlined the goals for the upcoming season as he affirmed, “For me it’s trying to be as successful as we can as a club. We had a three week preparatory camp in Dubai firstly for the Durand Cup and secondly for the Indian Super League (ISL). Durand Cup is the oldest competition in India as well as in Asia and it’s the first time we are competing in this tournament so we want to perform as well as we can and we want to have a good start.”
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