I-League 2016: Mumbai FC Season Preview

Mumbai FC, the lone ranger from the financial capital of the country, competing in India’s premier football competition ended the 2015 I-League season with a bit of history, as a sixth place finish saw them mark the highest ever finish in the I-League in the club’s eight year history. Although the landmark occasion came at the end of a fluctuating ride of fortunes of last season and beyond, the feat left everyone associated with the club sensing days of prosperity that plight in the times to come.

Fast forward to a day before the 2016 I-League campaign, the intuitions of a renaissance at Mumbai FC, appears to be taking shape. The start of the season was never looked forward to so much at Mumbai FC by the club officials and fans alike than the upcoming campaign. There is a popular belief around Cooperage that the current crop of players is capable of pulling Mumbai FC into the top bracket of teams in the division. These thoughts are also echoed by the gaffer, Khalid Jamil who expressed complete satisfaction about the troops at his disposal, a feeling he has never had before according to his own honest admission.

So as we lie on the cusp of yet another I-League season, Mumbai FC look cogent and compelling like never before, eager to translate all the pre-season optimism into outcome, one that will propel Mumbai FC into the very elite of Indian Football.
If one was told that Mumbai FC would lose Josimar, Chika Wali, Nidhin Lal, Justine Stephen, Rahul Bheke and the experienced figures of Climax Lawrence and Abhishek Yadav going into the 2016 I-League campaign, he would have been pardoned to predict a rather disastrous outcome for the Mumbai’s lone participant in the I-League, but such has been the magnitude of rejuvenation at Mumbai FC that it’s tough to believe that Mumbai FC have improved significantly from the last season.
Having retained the likes of Taisuke Matsugae, Jayesh Rane, Ashutosh Mehta, Allan Dias and Sanjiban Ghosh, Khalid Jamil has been extremely shrewd with his purchases which have included a mix of youthful exuberance in the shape of Malem Metei and Clyde Fernandes and precious experience of the likes of N.P. Pradeep, Anwar Ali and Steven Dias.
Mumbai FC’s side have predominant Asian flavor to it this season with Japanese striker Ryuki Kozawa brought in to bolster the strike force, as the North Korean Min Chol Son has arrived on the scene to marshal the backline. Mumbai FC have also added a bit of craft, bringing in the Japanese born Indian midfielder Arata Izumi from Pune FC, while replacing Josimar’s physical presence upfront with Liberian Eric Brown, who is the only foreign player from outside Asia.
Goalkeepers: Sanjiban Ghosh, Pawan Kumar, Kunal Sawant
Defenders: Allan Dias, Ramu Srikanth, Clyde Fernandes, Anwar Ali, Pratik Chowdhary, Min Chol Son, Ashutosh Mehta
Midfielders: Malem Metei, Steven Dias, Taisuke Matsugae, Eric Brown, Hitesh Sharma, Asif Kottayil, Darren Caldeira, N.P. Pradeep, Arata Izumi
Forwards: Rohit Mirza, Karan Sawhney, Sushil Kumar Singh, Cletus Paul, Ryuki Kozawa, Jayesh Rane
Coach’s Call

I have never been more satisfied with the squad: Khalid Jamil
Mumbai FC’s Head Coach since 2009, Khalid Jamil has guided the club immaculately well during tough times and this could be the season when Mumbai FC could reap benefits of keeping faith in their man. The Coach certainly feels his squad is perfectly cooked heading into the new season and expressed his satisfaction about the group of players at his disposal speaking at the club’s kit launch recently. “I have never been more satisfied with the squad than this season. I feel we are ready after a really good pre-season and can’t wait to get going this campaign,” a confident Jamil told the media gathered at the event.
Jamil’s clear and confident message just few days before the big kick-off is a great sign of things to come this season. For all the criticism levied at Jamil, this season would be the real marker of his abilities as a coach as he reckons he has what he wished for in his fairly complete looking Mumbai FC side.
Key clashes in the season
1. Mumbai FC vs Kingfisher East Bengal – 17th January 2016
The first home game of the season sees Kingfisher East Bengal make the trip to Cooperage. With Mumbai aiming for a top four finish, East Bengal come up as a direct rival in that race at the top of the I-League table. A full house is expected at Cooperage for that game, with some away fans too expected to add to the spice.
2. Mumbai FC vs Bengaluru FC – 27th January 2016
It’s always a cracking contest when Mumbai FC tackles Bengaluru FC and the fans of the two clubs are beginning to develop a sort of rivalry among themselves. On the field, it will be yet another crucial game for Mumbai FC who will be fighting with a direct rival for a top four place. Bengaluru’s travelling fans will ensure that there will be a vibrant atmosphere at Cooperage
3. DSK Shivajians vs Mumbai FC – 7th February 2016
The first Maharashtra derby takes Mumbai FC to the Balewadi Stadium to face I-League debutants DSK Shivajians. It will be the first derby between the two clubs in the I-League and promises to be a really intense affair. Lot of Mumbai FC supporters are already planning the short trip to Pune to make their presence felt at the Balewadi Stadium.
4. Mumbai FC vs McDowell’s Mohun Bagan
The Champions come to town immediately after Mumbai return after playing the Maharashtra derby. Mohun Bagan were held by Mumbai FC in the same fixture last season during their march to the title, but this year Mumbai FC will be hoping to go a step better and beat the defending Champions at Cooperage.
Can Mumbai FC end Mumbai’s decade long wait for the I-League crown?
This is the question which is on every Mumbai FC fan’s mind at the moment. The city of Mumbai has been devoid of the National League title for ten years and the admirers of the beautiful game in the city are craving a triumphant season in the I-League. Mumbai FC may not be the favorites to win the I-League this season, but are more than capable of pulling off a surprise this season.
The city of dreams is dreaming once again, can Mumbai FC turn the dream into reality?

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