In an exclusive interview with IFTWC, Indian National Football team’s and Mumbai City FC‘s seasoned defender Mehtab Singh in a candid conversation sheds light on various facets of Indian football that are close to his heart. In the realm of Indian football, Mehtab Singh stands as a prominent figure, not only as a regular starter for the Indian national football team but also as a vital pillar of the Mumbai City FC’s defense.
Mehtab delves into the intricacies of his team’s rigorous preparations for the upcoming AFC Champions League (ACL), where they seek to make a significant impact on the Asian stage. Moreover, he speaks of the instrumental role played by his gaffer, Des Buckingham, in nurturing young talents like himself, emphasizing the importance of development and grooming in the sport.
However, what truly sets Mehtab Singh apart is his commitment to Mumbai City FC, a choice he made deliberately, and he shares the reasoning behind this dedication. As a player who sees immense potential in the Indian football scene, he elaborates on the critical role his club plays in his continued growth as a footballer. Looking ahead, Mehtab Singh offers insights into India’s preparations for the AFC Asian Games 2024, outlining the team’s aspirations and strategies as they gear up to represent the nation on the grand continental stage.
On Mumbai City FC’s preparations for the upcoming Asian Champions League match against AL-Hilal
Mumbai City FC faces a daunting challenge in DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai as they gear up to confront Al-Hilal, a team renowned for its world-class strikers, in Asia’s premier club competition. Mehtab Singh and the Mumbai City FC squad are diligently refining their defensive strategies and tactical approach to bolster their performance, striving to turn the tide following a disappointing start to the tournament.
On Mumbai City’s preparations for the game, Mehtab Singh said, “We are preparing well for the game. We have rested and recovered from the last league game and our main focus has now shifted towards the Al-Hilal game. Yes, we have not played according to our standards in the last few matches in this tournament but we will try to turn the tides.
Our gaffer has been constantly telling us where we went wrong in the last few games in the ACL and how to combat those mistakes. They (Al-Hilal) possess a deadly attacking line-up but we will give our best. We are expecting a packed up stadium and we hope not to disappoint our fans who shall be coming to support us from the stands.”
On the competition for the center-back position in the Indian National Team
Within the Indian national football team, a dynamic blend of seasoned professionals and emerging young talents is vying for the coveted center-back position. Among them, Mehtab Singh, a seasoned defender who has consistently featured as a starter for the national squad, will be keen on maintaining his position within the first XI.
As competition for positions intensifies, Mehtab Singh remains determined to secure his spot, displaying a formidable commitment to maintaining his presence on the national team’s starting lineup. On the healthy competition brewing up for the coveted spot, Mehtab said, “This healthy competition is a benefit for the future of the national team. Competition in any aspect is very vital for any sport. I will always try to give my best to secure my spot in the first XI. The competition which is developing will also motivate the players to improve their performances which results in good performances of the team as a whole.”
“We as defenders also have a very good rapport amongst us. We try to coordinate and learn from each other during the training sessions. I personally try to learn from experienced colts in the team like Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan who has been in the national team for a long time. Overall, I feel that this competition will help in matches as we will try to elevate our performances and bring positive results for the team. “
On extending the contract with Mumbai City FC this summer
Since joining Mumbai City FC in 2020, the 25-year-old has gone from strength to strength and has imprinted himself as a pillar in the Islanders’ defence. Mehtab was a vital cog in Des Buckingham’s side that lifted the Hero ISL League Winners’ Shield in the 2022-23 season, secured a return to the AFC Champions League, along with a runners up finish in the Durand Cup.
In his time with the Islanders, Mehtab has developed as a centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and led the charts for most successful passes for Mumbai City FC in the 2022-23 Hero ISL. The young defender from Punjab has also grown to be a constant goalscoring threat from set pieces and has scored five times in Mumbai City FC colours – most notably, a thumping left-footed finish in Kochi against the Kerala Blasters FC in the 2022-23 league campaign
Mehtab Singh said on his contract extension, “It has been a privilege to be a part of this wonderful team and I am delighted that I have the opportunity to stay here for three more years. Everyone at Mumbai City FC has a great bond and the club has built an environment where we are always supporting and encouraging each other. With the support of Des Buckingham, his staff and everyone at the club, I have certainly grown a lot as a player but also as a person but I don’t want to stop here.”
“Also, I have begin my ISL career with Mumbai City FC. I feel, Mumbai City FC is like my second home. I have a lot of affection with the management and players of this club. I was not willing to leave this space and go to any other club. I wanted to continue my stint in Mumbai and add more success to this club. I am really privileged to be a part of Mumbai City FC”
On Mehtab Singh’s relationship with Mumbai City FC gaffer – Des Buckingham
Mehtab Singh’s strong rapport with Des Buckingham, the head coach of Mumbai City FC, is emblematic of the trust and mentorship Des extends to the young talents on the team. Mehtab Singh, who has thrived under Des’s guidance, cites this invaluable mentorship as a primary reason for his continued commitment to Mumbai City FC.
The coach’s belief in nurturing and grooming emerging players has not only fortified Mehtab’s developement but has also played a pivotal role in his growth as a footballer within the club. On his personal relationship with Des Buckingham, Singh said, “It’s an honour to player under Des Buckingham. He is a gaffer who can easily connect with the pulse of the team. Personally, I have learnt a lot under him and improved myself in different aspects of the game. I can easily share all my queries with the coach which is really helpful for me as a player.”
“Des is someone who makes you understand intricately about your shortcomings and provides you with the necessary guidance. He helps all the players in different components of the game both on and off the field. He was someone who trusted my talent and gave me an opportunity to represent the team and I always try to pay off through my performances. It’s a great experience playing under him and I would love to learn more under his guidance”
On India’s preparations for the prestigious AFC Asian Cup coming up in January 2024
The Indian National football team is fervently looking ahead to the eagerly anticipated AFC Asian Cup in 2024, with unwavering determination and commitment to excel on the continental stage. In preparation for this momentous event, defender Mehtab Singh is leaving no stone unturned, rigorously dedicating himself to training and maintaining peak physical condition.
His relentless pursuit of excellence serves as a testament to the team’s collective aspiration to make a significant impact at the tournament. On asking him about India’s overall build-up to the AFC Asian Cup, Mehtab said, “We are eagerly looking ahead to the tournament. We have collectively crossed various obstacles to qualify for this tournament. And, we will keep no stones un-turned and will try our best to do well in this tournament.
Personally, I am very excited for AFC Asian Cup. For me, representing India in the biggest stage of Asia will be a dream come true. I am trying to keep myself fit and train hard so that I am in the perfect shape before the tournament.”
Overall, Mehtab Singh’s unwavering commitment and aspirations epitomize the spirit of Indian football. As he tirelessly strives for excellence, he envisions a bright future for the Indian team, one where they continue to rise and leave an indelible mark on the international stage and for the club he plays.
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