Mumbai Indians won the Indian Premier League (IPL), U Mumba clinched the thrilling pro-kabaddi finals, can Mumbai City FC give the city more sporting reasons to cheer?
It’s been a decade since a Mumbai team won football’s top prize in India but that now feels like a generation ago. Mahindra United, the team that won the I-League and Federation Cup double, have already disbanded, leaving the burden of winning something big in football entirely on the broad shoulders Mumbai City FC.
The Mumbai franchise disappointed in the inaugural edition despite building, what many people believe, a star-studded side. It was the only franchise with two marquee players -- Freddie Ljungberg and Nicolas Anelka -- and they also spent heavily on buying two of the three most expensive Indian players. Despite all this, they failed to qualify for the semifinals and how determined will they be to leave the past behind.
The man at the centre, or rather steering, this challenge is Nicolas Anelkahimself. A man of few words, Anelka is used to letting his boots do the talking but in his new role as player-manager he has had to go beyond his 90-minute duty on the field.
"I won't be a manager who is out of reach. I will be there for my players, not just as manager, but even as a player. They will not feel I am above them," said Anelka in one of his rare interaction with the media in Mumbai.
His players has already taken a liking to him and Sunil Chhetri, India’s highest scorer in international competitions, can vouch for that.
“Anelka a really good player. Just being there in training with him will improve all of us as players. Learning that he's a coach-cum-player now makes you want to hear a lot from him," Chhetri had said earlier.
Anelka and Chhetri will arouse genuine early-season excitement. While Anelka’s exploits need no detailing, Chhetri appears to be just the sort of lively domestic forward who can make the optimum use of having Anelka as his partner.
Mumbai City, though, have enough strength even beyond the strikeforce, even though it is undeniable that both bring star power to the dressing room.
Unlike many franchisees, who have bought themselves a whole new group of players, Mumbai City -- despite the disappointments last year -- can still be happy with their player theycontinue to have. Players like Pavel Cmovs and Andre Moritz has undeniable talent, while, with all respect to their array of new international arrivals, it is domestic players like Brandon Fernandes, Prathesh Shirodkar, Gabriel Fernandes and Kingshuk Debnath that will provide the Anelka, and his assistant Oscar Bruzon, with plenty of hope.
Mumbai, quite rarely for an ISL team, have shown remarkable courage with an all-Indian goalkeeping ensemble, led by the braveheart Subrata Paul.
From an Indian fan perspective, the capture of Haitian midfielder Sony Norde, who helped Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan win their first I-League title last season, makes for an interesting choice, while another Haitian international, Frantz Bertin, also joins the squad. Other prominent foreign players in the team include Republic of Ireland’s Darren O'Dea, highly-rated Spanish midfielder Cristian Bustos, Tunisian World Cupper Selim Benachour and Premier League striker Frederic Piquionne.
Mumbai City may not have had the success they craved for in the first edition but with Anelka now at the helm of affairs, he must prove he is the right man. It is, after all, the manager who carries the greatest burden.
Nicolas Anelka (marquee-player-cum-manager), Frantz Bertin, Darren O'Dea, Pavel Cmovs, Cristian Bustos, Juan Aguilera, Sony Norde, Selim Benachour, Andre Moritz, Frederic Piquionne, Subrata Paul, Rowilson Rodrigues, Kingshuk Debnath, Gabriel Fernandes, Lalrindika Ralte, Subhash Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, Albino Gomes, Brandon Fernandes, Debjit Majumder, Keegan Pereira, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Pratesh Shirodkar, Sunil Chhetri
--- Press Release