The defending champions Mumbai City FC will have a surmounting task in the new season, trying to defend the crown. The players know very well how difficult it is to defend the title, but the new season is something to look forward to for some of the local boys of Mumbai City FC. In an interaction with Indian Super League (ISL), three Islanders, Amey Ranawde, Raynier Fernandes, and new signing Rahul Bheke talked about the challenges, the mood during the season, and a few off the field moments.
For playing eye-catching free-flowing attacking football like how the Islanders did last season under Sergio Lobera, a lot of work goes on in the training grounds and the gyms, but the chemistry and understanding in the team as a whole is something that is developed. Talking about spending time with each other, Raynier said “After every match, I used to go to Amey’s room, and towards the end of the season, me, Amey, Asif, and Vikram used to all hang out together and talk about the match, and it was something you know we actually really liked. We used to watch our own matches, and that was something great. Overall also it looked very nice and positive because we, the management, the doctors, and everyone were literally like a big family, so, it was like we were in Goa, but we were at home.”
Amey, Rahul, and Raynier have all grown up in Mumbai and played a lot of football at the inter-school level, which has surely played a pivot role in helping them reach where they are today. When asked about his past playing days, Raynier recalls, “I used to be part of the school team which competed at the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) tournament, but in order to win and play the tournament at the highest level, I had to change schools. When I went to Bosco’s that literally changed everything, because the competition even in the school was very high, and it was difficult to be part of the team, and in the MSSA you face some very strong teams like Stanislaus, Bombay Scottish, and Cathedral, and it was very thrilling to face these good teams. Especially against Stanislaus, there were a lot of rivalries, and it used to feel like we were playing a derby, and the overall experience I got in the MSSA is something I will cherish throughout my life.”
Raynier, when called up to represent the Indian National team, had quite a fascinating experience, particularly outside the field. During the time, one day with the team, he was joined by the likes of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sunil Chhetri, and Sandesh Jinghan while having breakfast, where he encountered something which he will probably never forget. Raynier confessed that Sunil Chhetri was not quite impressed by what was on Raynier’s plate at breakfast. He revealed the reason why he got stick from the captain.
“So, what was on my plate was a bowl of Kellog’s with milk, a banana on the side with a cup of tea.”
Although he may have made a few mistakes off the pitch, he made sure to keep things tidy in the middle of the park for the Blue Tigers, he reminisces his debut for the National team. “ It was a moment I will never ever forget, and I have mentioned this in a couple of interviews, just being a part of that squad with all the legends, was a big achievement for me. And apart from that, when I finally got my chance to come on, I was a bit nervous, but then I thought to myself that I just need to go there and do what I am good at and just enjoy the game.
So, when I stepped on the field, I didn’t think of anything, I just wanted to help the team and play my role. It was a bad day for us, we did not get the results, and lost the game 3-0, but as far as the individual performance and what we did with that team in the second half, is a moment that I will always keep in my mind. It was something that you know, you don’t imagine. At least for me, I did not expect to be called up for the camp, and I had other plans, but just four days before the camp, I got the call-up and that moment I felt so many emotions that I cannot put into words, but it was a dream come true, after playing for so long, from our school days to college, for different clubs in different competitions, and suddenly you see your name with all these people who have represented the country, is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Raynier confidently disclosed his aims for the 2020-21 ISL season of getting into the first team, doing well in the play-offs. Bringing the trophy home, he was again quick to not hold himself back. “Last season it was amazing, but this season is what we will remember for the rest of our lives because we have achieved the shield and the medal, now it’s on how we defend it, and that’s the most important thing right now, and to do that we have to first start working from day one, we have to assemble in our hotels, we have to bond and become like a family, like how we were last year, we want to do it again, try to be consistent in our training, because training is everything to achieve the desired goal, so our aim, especially me, individually is for us to get back into our best shape, try to work harder in training, and that’s how we will try to achieve the goal of defending the trophy and the shield.”
Rahul, who has also won the league previously with Bengaluru FC agreed on how difficult it might be to defend the crown. “ It’s always difficult, the other try to beat you and everyone wants to win the title. But surely this year, my ultimate aim will be to win the title again and also to be on the score-sheet, which I have done before for Bengaluru FC, scoring as a defender, something which not many defenders do, so my aim will be to score as many as I can and help my team win games, and defend the title.”
Rahul has scored a few iconic goals, including one in the Kolkata Derby at the Salt Lake Stadium, in the Super Cup final against East Bengal which BFC won, and most famously the stoppage-time winner in the 2018-19 ISL final. For a defender to score quite a few important goals is something every defender hopes for, but for him, it does not stop there and he is hungrier than ever.
“No, I won’t be happy, I won’t be satisfied (with all the iconic goals he has already scored) because for us players, we have a short career, and we think of achieving more. Surely I am happy with whatever I have done, but till the time I am playing, I will look forward to winning more titles and achieve more success. So, that will always be on my mind.”
Not only Rahul, but everyone seems to be pretty happy about his arrival. When asked who according to you is the biggest signing for Mumbai City FC this season, Amey quipped “ For me, it is definitely my big brother. Rahul. My big brother will always be the biggest signing for me at least.”
Lastly, when asked about how excited he is to be joining the Islanders and playing under head coach Sergio Lobera, Rahul commented “ I know how good he is, and the things he has achieved with FC Goa in the ISL. So, I am looking forward to meeting him and training under him, becoming a better player under him. I am looking forward to it, and whatever position he will ask me to play, I will do my best, and do whatever he wants.”
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