Akash Mishra Interview: Playing in AFC Champions League was my initial goal at Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City FC's Akash Mishra is already relishing the challenge of playing at the highest level in Asia.
Indian Super League (ISL) club Mumbai City FC is gearing up for their first away fixture of the AFC Champions League 2023-24 season on Tuesday as they face Uzbekistan's PFC Navbahor Namangan at the Markaziy Stadium. The Islanders are eager to bounce back and regain their footing in the continental campaign after suffering an opening match defeat to Iran's FC Nassaji Mazandaran at home. New signing Akash Mishra, who joined Mumbai City FC during the summer transfer window, is already relishing the challenge of playing at the highest level in Asia.
"My initial goal when I joined Mumbai City FC was to play in the AFC Champions League and perform, because I think that is one platform where all Indian players want to play. There, all the best clubs from Asia play and you want to test yourself. That will really help me and the club to improve our performance and focus on things which we have to improve," he said in an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com.
📽️ In conversation with Akash Mishra who speaks on the team's drive behind playing in the #ACL and rallies the fans to come watch #TheIslanders live in the stadium 🗣️#IslandersInAsia #MumbaiCity #AamchiCity 🔵 pic.twitter.com/WqUiCrUX98— Mumbai City FC (@MumbaiCityFC) September 17, 2023
An attack-minded full-back who enjoys surging forward, Mishra gained recognition for his impressive performances with the Indian Arrows in the I-League. He made the move to ISL side Hyderabad FC in 2020 and made significant progress under former head coach Manolo Marquez during three seasons. Mishra became an integral part of Marquez's team during that period, helping them qualify for the playoffs in two out of three seasons and winning the ISL Cup in the 2021-22 season. He subsequently earned a spot in the Indian senior national team and is now one of the key players in his position at the national level.
Mishra was confident that he would continue to enjoy the freedom that brought out the best in him at Hyderabad FC before signing for Mumbai City FC, and a conversation with head coach Des Buckingham played a significant role.
"The way I like to play is by making overlapping runs. When I came to Hyderabad FC under Marquez, I got that freedom. And I enjoyed that freedom a lot. The style that Mumbai City FC play suits my game. I feel that the freedom which I enjoyed at Hyderabad FC, I will receive the same here as well. I spoke to coach (Des Buckingham) as well (before signing) so I was very convinced about that. This is the reason I signed for Mumbai City FC and I want to do as much as I can," Mishra revealed.
Mumbai City FC received plenty of acclaim last season, winning the ISL League Shield by playing an attractive and attacking brand of football. Des Buckingham's team also set numerous records along the way. One of the season's highlights was the performance of their Indian players, without whom the League Shield victory would not have been possible. For Mishra, it was crucial to select a club that would not only enhance his game but also his development.
"To be honest, before coming to Hyderabad FC, I was not that much of a ball-player but when I started to get into these kind of football games and play with the ball, I really enjoyed it. It played a really big role for me to come to Mumbai City FC. The way they play football, we have all seen them play. Mumbai City FC are a very consistent side and they always play a specific brand of football, which helps the young players improve. For me, it's not just about playing; it's about personal improvement. So, I believe I chose the right club where I can develop myself and play the type of football I want," Mishra said.
At 21, Mishra is still relatively young but has gained valuable experience. Arguably one of the finest full-backs in the country, he will be expected to have an immediate impact at his new club, both domestically and on the continental stage. At a personal level, the Balrampur-born defender has set a target of contributing more goals and assists this season.
"I felt that I should have contributed more in the attacking third last season. I did my best, but it didn't happen as much as I wanted. So, this year, I'll certainly focus on my defensive abilities but I'll also try to add some more assists and add more goals to my name," he concluded.