‘We want to be the first Indian club to win a game at AFC Champions League': Mumbai City coach Buckingham

‘We want to be the first Indian club to win a game at AFC Champions League': Mumbai City coach Buckingham

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 7, 2022

Mumbai City FC are set to make their debut in Asia's biggest club football competition, the 2022 AFC Champions League, when they take on Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab FC in their opening Group Stage match at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium here tomorrow.

The Islanders are placed in Group B in the West Region alongside Al Jazira (UAE), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), and Air Force Club (Iraq).

Addressing the media during a virtual press conference on Thursday, Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham and vice-captain Mandar Rao Dessai spoke about a variety of topics including the team's ambition of creating history by becoming the first Indian club to win a game in the AFC Champions League.

"This is only the second time a club from India has competed at this level after FC Goa last year. They picked up three draws, so three points across the period, and they showed what Indian players and what Indian teams can do at this level. So for me, we want to try and do something no other Indian club has done before, which is to win a game at this competition and we take it from there," Buckingham said.

"We've got a very important game against an excellent team in two days. But for me, it would be trying to create our own relative success and history. And, that would be for me, trying to win a game at this level."

Ahead of the AFC Champions League, Mumbai City FC have had a successful preparatory camp in Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi, UAE. They also played two friendly games against UAE Pro League side Al Ain FC and Second Division club Al Hilal United FC.

Reflecting on the pre-season friendlies, Buckingham said, "We had two good friendlies, especially against Al Ain. We know they are an excellent team and have been consistent. They played a strong team against us with only four of their players out on international duty. It gave an opportunity for players to, firstly, see the level of competition and see the level of the teams that we will be competing against. And, it also gave the players an opportunity to test themselves against those players. So, preparation in that game especially was excellent. The second game allowed us to work on the shape and structure that we will be going with in the Champions League. Again, the players performed extremely well, so I am very happy with them."

Speaking about the team's preparedness, Buckingham said, "Both the friendly games are going to serve a great purpose for us going into not just our first game, but for the six across the Champions League because as I said, we will be up against very good players and teams. We know we have to be smart to pick our moments to do what we want to do. But, I feel with the ISL season as well as the learnings from that, as well as from the last two weeks that we've done as much as we can to prepare ourselves for what we are going into."

Meanwhile, Dessai expressed his excitement for the Islanders' historic participation in the Group Stage of the 2022 AFC Champions League.

"I think all the players are excited for this moment. We just want to start the campaign in a positive way, so that we can have good results in the competition, and that is what all the fans want from us as well. We are looking forward to the first game. We've been preparing for the last three weeks, and it's been really good. We also played two friendlies, so I think it's time for the real challenge and we are ready for it," said Dessai.

"We know how the level will be, and the moment we reached Abu Dhabi, it was a fresh start for us. We only took positives from the ISL season. The mood has been really good, we are just waiting for the first game, so let's hope for a positive result," he added.

Mumbai City FC are the current Hero ISL League Winners and Champions, winning the unique 'double' in the 2020-21 season, and are representing India in the 2022 AFC Champions League.

City Football Group (CFG) is currently providing advisory services to the Club. CFG has entered into an agreement to acquire a majority investment in Mumbai City FC. The purchase is awaiting final approvals.


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