Ahead of Mumbai City’s match with Bengaluru FC on the 15th of February, Head Coach Des Buckingham, and Bipin Singh sat down for the pre-match press conference.
The press conference picks up immediately after Mumbai City wins the League Shield for the 2022-2023 season of the Hero ISL. it was a momentous occasion for them and much of the Press conference was spent asking Des and Bipin about their feelings, experience, strategy, and effort that went into this achievement. But Mumbai City FC is not one to rest on their laurels and everyone has their sights set on the remaining matches and finals as they continue an unbeaten streak this season.
The first question was for Bipin that inquired into his experience at other clubs and in Mumbai and how playing for Mumbai compared to others. Bipin humbly admitted that his experience in other clubs is little. He transferred to Mumbai CIty from ATK back in 2018 and has continued with his current team for 5 years. He reveals that his connection has grown to such an extent that it feels like home to him. Mumbai has fulfilled his dream of winning a trophy and each victory has been an amazing experience he would remember for life.
“Very wet and emotional” is how Des Buckingham describes his feelings when Mumbai City won the League Shield after besting FC goa 5-3 on Saturday. Mumbai City and FC Goa, each gave their all and fans in either camp got to witness a spectacular match. It was a hard-earned victory for Mumbai as their year of hard work finally paid off.
Des further elaborates on their celebration saying that the team did have their moment of jubilation on the pitch but that day they could not fully indulge in their revelry as they knew that had a match in 4 days. The teams get a few days off after their match with East Bengal and that is when the team members who have been separated from their families would get to celebrate.
Des is not one to rest on his laurels and although the moment is indeed a very special one for him he has his eyes set on the upcoming games and wants his team to do the same. On being asked if he wants to take it easy and give the newcomers an opportunity, he reveals he has no intention to do so. “It is my duty to put the best team together and while there are certain deciding factors such as suspensions and injury, position on the team must be earned. The individuals on the pitch are on there because they have put in the work and deserve it. Inclusion on the pitch is not a token gesture. We are not a team that does that.”
Chhangte has been an exceptional player this season. He has scored 10 goals this season, the highest for any Indian in a season, and has many more assists to his name. Des showed great pride and speaks fondly of the growth Chhangte and other players have shown. He is happy to see the confidence in Chhangte and how he is a strong contender for a number of accolades this season. While he is not a “finished article” so to speak but the growth he has shown is immense and regarding it, Des says “I am really pleased with the development he has had in his game over the past twelve months and I cannot wait to see what the next twelve will bring.”
Regarding their recent success and team philosophy Des stresses the importance of players who fit or can fit into the philosophy of Mumbai City and the football that is played. The ISL has a number of skilled players but that doesn’t necessarily mean they would fit in at Mumbai. Greg Stewart is a footballer who has more than made his mark in the ISL but had he not displayed a capacity to fit Mumbai City’s play style it would not have happened. ” We retained around 90-95% of our players from last season who are currently playing in this season. Only 4 new foreign players have been brought in in addition to those we have retained.” This emphasis on compatibility and experience with the club has been a key factor in their many successes.
Greg says his task was to develop all players and not any particular category. “When I Look at our team our foreign players get more headlines but it’s the young players and Indians players such as Gurkirat, Apuia, and Bipin who form the core of our team and is the key behind our successes.” Said Des to clarify any misconceptions regarding his role in training players.
Last season Mumbai City had the historic opportunity to play in the AFC Champions League although they were eliminated their run was nothing short of a milestone in Indian Football. When asked about their plans and strategies Des did not reveal anything but announced that plans were already underway and to give an idea of how planned they are he says that their current season was planned last year in January.
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