Mumbai boys seek back-to-back Hero ISL success for the Islanders

New signing Rahul Bheke and Raynier Fernandes believe defending the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) title this season with Mumbai City FC will be difficult but they have the wherewithal to make it happen again.

Rahul, Raynier and Amey Ranawade – all of whom grew up in the Maximum City -- recently took part in ‘Let’s Football Live’ on Twitter Space and shared their thoughts ahead of the upcoming season of the Hero ISL.

Raynier and Amey were part of Sergio Lobera’s team that won both the League Shield as well as the Hero ISL trophy last season, while Rahul tasted title success with Bengaluru FC in 2018-19 and knows a thing or two about how difficult it can get defending the title.

“It’s difficult to defend the title. Because other teams are after you, they want you to lose games. They don’t want you to win the title again so it’s always difficult. My aim for the upcoming season is to win the title again and also to be on the scoresheet which I have done before for Bengaluru FC scoring as a defender [he scored the winner in the final against FC Goa in 2018-19]. It’s not what many defenders aim for. My aim is to score as many goals as possible as a defender so that my team wins the games and eventually the title,” said Rahul. 

Raynier is hopeful of winning it again too but acknowledges they will have to work much harder than last season. “Last season was amazing. It was team work. The management and everyone. But this season is going to be an experience. Because we have achieved the shield and the medal and now how we defend it! Right now, that’s the most important thing we have to do. We have got to bond from day one. We have to be like family, like last season. Try to be consistent in training because training is everything to achieve the desired goal. I just want us to get back to our good shape, try to work 100 times harder in our training. That’s how we will try to achieve the goal of defending the trophy and the shield. I have a feeling that this season will be as great for us as the last season,” he said.

Raynier added that Islanders had a great team atmosphere and that went a long way towards their dominating the season in 2020-21. “It [the atmosphere] looked so nice and positive because the management, the doctors, everyone, we were like a big family. We were playing in Goa but it felt like home over there,” he said.  

Amey joined Mumbai City FC ahead of the 2020-21 season and he said it was a dream come true for him. “I always thought of playing for Mumbai City FC. From childhood, like everyone else, I had a dream, playing for my local club and win the trophy with them. Last season, we did it, winning both silverware, League Winners’ Shield as well as the Hero ISL trophy. It was amazing, a great experience playing beside Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh. I have been training with both of them since FC Goa days [he played two games for the Gaurs in 2019-20] but playing a Hero ISL game together [for the large majority of the 2020-21 campaign] was a totally different experience. Game by game, I gained experience and I enjoyed it.”

Readers will remember that in the final against ATK Mohun Bagan Amey had a serious head injury just before the break and the concussion was so bad that players from both sides were visibly dismayed and prayed for his safety. Thankfully, Amey was out of danger as he woke up the next day in hospital to a sea of heart-warming as well as congratulatory messages.

“I saw the post on Instagram the next day. The players carrying my jersey in the post-match celebrations. When they lifted the trophy, they had my jersey. That was a very special feeling for me. The next day when I joined the team at the hotel for celebrations, when I received my medal and saw the trophy, I was almost in tears. It was an amazing feeling,” he reminisced.    

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