Mumbai City FC captain and defender Rahul Bheke wants his team to take pride in what they have achieved this season and simultaneously wants them to continue persisting their desired targets. The League Shield winners play East Bengal FC in their final league game of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season at the Mumbai Football Arena, in Mumbai, on Sunday.

After a phenomenal season being topped off with the League Winners’ Shield, the Islanders would be keen on regrouping themselves after their defeat against Bengaluru FC in the previous game. Despite the defeat, Bheke insisted on his team focusing on the upcoming game and accomplishing the goals set by the team.

“The players were not that happy because we got our first loss of the season. Obviously, our target was to keep getting better and win as many games as possible with two games left in the league. So, the players know that it was not a good game, and we lost, but everyone is more focused on the upcoming games. Everyone knows that the target for the season was to win the League Shield and win the Hero ISL trophy. So one thing was achieved, and now everyone knows how important the last game of the league is in a way to make a positive end to the league (stage),” Bheke stated in the official pre-match press conference as he accompanied head coach Des Buckingham.

A veteran of the league, having plied his trade with Kerala Blasters, FC Pune City, Bengaluru FC apart from Mumbai City FC, the 32-year-old takes his first trip to Kolkata donning the blue of Mumbai City FC. He recalled his moments of playing for East Bengal FC in the Hero I-League and expressed his bond with the former club.

“It's a dream for every player to play in Kolkata, especially for the clubs like East Bengal FC and Mohun Bagan, and I've played there so I'm really happy for that. It's a proud feeling for me to score in the (Kolkata) derby also. It was my derby and I scored, so I am really attached with the club for what I have done for them. But on Sunday, I'm playing against them. So I'm looking forward to seeing that game and witnessing another good game against them,” he said.

An ever-present figure in the Mumbai City FC side this season, the defender has been a vital cog in their league shield triumph, registering 41 tackles, 37 clearances, 34 blocks, and 24 interceptions across 15 games. Having tasted silverware with former club Bengaluru FC in the 2018-19 season, Bheke was proud to achieve silverware with his hometown club and was ambitious about achieving better things with the team.

“As a local lad and as a player, I'm really proud of what we have achieved this season. Right from the start, it was a target to keep getting better game by game. There were two targets like winning the Shield, being on the top of the table, and winning the Hero ISL. So we have achieved that one thing and we all are proud of what we have done so far. We are just looking forward to the upcoming games and to achieve our second target. So before that, we have one game and it’s important that we end that on a positive note. Then, we look, start practising and preparing to achieve our second target.

The Islanders have won the League Winners’ Shield along with the Hero ISL title during the 2020-21 campaign but couldn’t celebrate their historic achievement due to a bio-bubble being in place. Come Sunday, the Islanders will double up on their celebration as they lift their second League Winners’ Shield for the first time with their fans at the Mumbai Football Arena, and Bheke wants the supporters to be a part of the huge triumph.

“When the team won the League Shield in the 2020-21 season, there were no fans to celebrate with because of the bio-bubble but this time we got the opportunity to celebrate with the fans, our families, and friends. So, it’s a great day on Sunday. We’ll make sure that we get three points on Sunday and we’ll celebrate with everyone at our home,” he concluded.