Mumbai – Improvement Please!

Today, we take a look at India’s largest city Mumbai, capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra and home to more than 20 million people. Lying on India’s west coast, the city boasts the highest number of Indian billionaires and millionaires and can be classed as the country’s financial hub. With all this money, there is an obvious hunger for high-level professional sport and, as in many other Indian cities, cricket is king in Mumbai. The city is home to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL), the country’s prime cricket competition.

Given the above, unlike in states such as Goa or West Bengal, football is just another popular sport and any club from Mumbai will not only have to compete with cricket and the likes of the Mumbai Indians, who represent the city in the IPL, but with other sports that are fighting for recognition. Having said that, the introduction of the Indian Super League seems to have had a positive effect on the local football scene, with the club able to recruit the likes of former French international Nicolas Anelka and Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg. Consequently, expectations were high in Mumbai, but the team were not able to achieve more than a seventh-place finish, failing to reach the playoffs and ultimately closing the campaign one above bottom-placed NorthEast United.

On a more positive note, Mumbai managed to boast one the most impressive attendances, with an average support of 22,592 per game. Given DY Patil Stadium’s capacity of 55,000, the figure might seem somewhat underwhelming, but this was the ISL’s inaugural season and more is yet to come. More might also come from City’s manager Peter Reid, who will surely be able to make his vast football experience more beneficial to his players next season. The former England international has struggled to make a name for himself as a manager, but at least, Everton midfielder has gained some significant managing experience across different cultures; this might become a valuable asset soon.

In addition to their manager, the club have managed to retain Nicolas Anelka, who must be disappointed with his return of only two goals in seven games. With a point to prove and seemingly settled in Mumbai, the former French international might just hit the ground running and provide the club with what they need from their star striker. In Manuel Friedrich, the club also have an experienced captain, who will prove his worth, once properly settled. His experience gained at Bundesliga giants such as Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, will eventually come in handy for his teammates.

Two of City’s local heroes, goalkeeper Subrata Pal and midfielder Lalrindika Ralte, are a couple of intriguing prospects from an Indian perspective. Whereas Subrata Pal may not need much of an introduction, given his well documented career, at 22 years of age, Ralte is a rather unknown prospect. Equipped with a great left foot and technical versatility, the midfielder is able to break down defences with a single move or the odd unexpected shot. The youngster is a genuine talent and might have propelled his career, had he grown up in a European football academy for example. Nevertheless, the emergence of the ISL can only be beneficial to the likes of Ralte, as they will get the opportunity to play with former greats on a regular basis.

The prospects for Mumbai City to achieve greatness are as good as ever, but to compete with football kingdoms like Goa, Kerala and West Bengal, success will have to spread across all clubs in the city. City is a great ambassador, but if the club fail to win the ultimate prize over the next few years, they may lose the attention of Mumbai and would have failed to compete with local giants like the Mumbai Indians.