FOUNDED IN THE YEAR 2007, Mumbai FC entered I-League in the 2008-09 and stayed in the I-League for eight seasons before being relegated in the 2016-17 season.
Being relegated; a danger that never even seemed possibility but the reality that started to be even more visible as the season progressed or actually as the season never really progressed.
There were many things that went wrong from the start and in the due course of the season. We try to understand if there was something Mumbai FC could have done to understand the signs of the heading down the wrong path and done anything about it.
In this series, we take a detailed look at what lessons can be learnt from the distraught season.
All's not well that starts well
Mumbai FC kicked off the 2016-17 season with maximum 6 points off the first two games. The then manager, Santosh Kashyap was boastful of saying that it was only 10% of the team's attacking potential. But if the performance of the team in these two games were to be noted, it would help understand that it wasn't the strongest of performances. The game against DSK Shivaijians was the first game at home and Shivajians were a much better side on the night. Mumbai FC just got in a goal to reflect on the score sheet but statistics with regard to ball possession and shots taken gave the team from Pune a clear edge on performance.
Mumbai's best comeback in the season was against Churchill Brothers in an away game. They were down by an early goal and the leveler 10 minutes from half time and a dying minute goal gave Mumbai the only away victory of the season. The game has exposed the defensive loopholes of Mumbai FC because although Mumbai held more possession of the ball, they could not stop the shots on target. The perfect start in two games created an illusion that Mumbai FC could go a long way in the season but it wasn't to be.
Change of hands
Mumbai FC were under the care of long-serving head coach Khalid Jamil for their time in the top flight of Indian football. Prior to the start of the season, the team sacked Jamil and brought in Santosh Kashyap to get the team to a better finish than under Jamil. The squad announced at the start of the season did not have single foreign player. In fact, the first foreign player to feature for Mumbai was in the fourth game. That game was against Aizawl FC at home that was lead interestingly by Khalid Jamil.
Mumbai FC continued to slump to defeat after defeat. Kashyap's team was just unable to contain teams from scoring against them. They need for foreign signings was called out for to change the fate of the team. Two more players were added but only in the eighth game. Shratiyar and Anderson da Silva made appearances for the team. Mumbai still not could win that game.
Mumbai FC finally got a point after 6 straight losses. It was a goalless draw at home against Mohun Bagan. The result was too late to stage a comeback. Santosh Kashyap was clearly a wrong choice of coach.
The process of adding players for the squad goes hand in hand with the picking of the coach. At times, the squad is built first by the management after consultation of existing technical staff or plainly based on the budget allocated for the season. This important process plays a crucial role to help decide the performance of the team with the desired aim in mind, for Mumbai FC it was to finish in the top three.
Santosh Kashyap was appointed well prior to announcing the squad. Kashyap defended his decision to announce the squad of just 18 players to begin the season saying the he intended to keep his squad compact to work with the players better and had place only for deserving players.
No doubt Kashyap was given reins in squad picking to build the choice of his liking. When the need for foreign players started becoming more evident, the delay of having them onboard was attributed to visa and other job contract formalities. Mumbai FC were in dire need of players who could turn the season around for them. Need was a leadership on field and stitch up the distorted pieces of attack, midfield and the defence that seemed to have not enough coordination between them. Robinho, a Brazilian striker was included in the squad. He played for one game and was released thereafter; injury, the reason cited. Towards the end of the season, a couple of players in Baljit Sahni, an aging Indian attacker was signed alongwith Brazilian Alex Willian, both of whom had failed to save the sinking Mumbai FC ship. The choice of players turned out to be an ill-thought of move by the selectors.
Mumbai FC were not just not having problems on the field but off it as well. A reason for the lack-lustre show by players could have been the problems that may have affected the team morale and mental approach. Steven Dias, announced as the captain to be leading the team, had been kept away from the squad of 18 for games, let alone the starting line-up. There was more to the below-par performance reason to be not picked in the squad regularly. Kashyap had consistently ignored the trio of Steven Dias, Pratik Chowdhary and Allan Dias and this pointed to something brewing in background. The trio had been kept away from practices and that certainly was an order rather than a choice for the players. Fans started notice of this and began protests asking the management to take action when it was been denied by Kashyap in press conference questions.
Reports of players being not treated well by Kashyap had fans taking to social media to voice their displeasure about the alleged wrongdoings and demanding for Kashyap's sacking. The poor results had pinned Mumbai FC firmly to the bottom of the table. The danger for relegation was on and the the Mumbai FC management had accepted that Kashyap could not save the team and with four games remaining for the season to get over, Kashyap was sacked. But when the squad never clicked to the extent of failing to even get goals regularly, was it right to wait till the 14th game to get in a new coach. Mumbai FC management could have taken a cue from Churchill Brothers SC or Chennai City FC who went through the similar fate of poor runs of results and replaced their coaches after 9 and 7 games respectively.
To replace Kashyap, Mumbai FC roped in Oscar Bruzon, a Spaniard who had been the head coach of Sporting Club de Goa for two seasons. Bruzon was brought in entrusted with a mammoth task of saving Mumbai FC from being relegated and qualify for the Federation Cup with just four games remaining. Bruzon came to the team at the time of the International break of about a month before Mumbai FC could play the first of the remaining four home games.
The team played differently under the new coach, Sharatiyar was given a more advanced role, playing ahead of defence. The first match ended being a goalless. Mumbai had not conceded but not scored either. There was still hope to be able the avoid relegation, Mumbai FC needed to win, needed to score goals. The next two games also turned out to being draws. By this time, Mumbai FC were relegated.
Oscar maintained that the team was capable of finishing much higher in the rankings but it needed better foreigner players. Being with the Goan club for two seasons, Bruzon's suggestion of foreign players was quite constructive with respect to set the balance of the team right. His assessment of the club and its players had Mumbai FC release two of the foreign players namely AndersonDa Silva and Alex Willian Silva. They must have not fit in Bruzon's plan for the team. The signings of the overseas players had come along very late and the players too did not cause any positive impact on the team's performance.
Get the latest in the world of Sports, Teams, and Players! Free Delivery to your Inbox.