ATK, Mumbai City FC coaches believe City Football Group’s deal will help ISL
ATK coach Antonio Lopez Habas and his counterpart at Mumbai City FC Jorge Costa said the City Football Group’s entry into the Indian football market will help the Indian Super League (ISL). The City Football Group, which also owns Premiership champions Manchester City, announced a 65% takeover of Mumbai City FC in Mumbai on Thursday.
Habas benefited from ATK’s partnership with Atletico Madrid in the first two seasons with a raft of foreign players, coaching staff and a long pre-season at Atletico Madrid’s facilities. Preparing for the second season in 2015 after winning the first edition of the ISL, ATK presented their trophy at the Vicente Calderon, then Atletico Madrid’s home, before a La Liga game against Barcelona.
“The players and coaching staff enjoyed the atmosphere of the stadium in the minutes prior to the initial whistle,” ATK said in a release in September 2015.
But ahead of Saturday’s game against Mumbai City FC here, Habas didn’t want to talk about how an Indian franchise can benefit from association with a top European club.
“It will be important for the league but that is not something I am concerned about,” he said. “My focus is on tomorrow’s game and on how we can get better,” said the Spaniard, back at ATK after 2015.
After five games, ATK lead the standings with 10 points. Mumbai City FC are seventh in the 10-team competition with five points from as many games. Both teams go into the game after away draws; ATK 0-0 to Odisha FC on Sunday and Mumbai City FC 2-2 against NorthEast United on Wednesday.
Costa, who played 50 games for Portugal and 251 games for Porto in a 15-year span beginning in 1990, was more eloquent. In his second season at Mumbai City FC—he took them to the playoffs last term after a difficult start where they managed just four points from the first four games—Costa said: “We still have a lot of work to do to help improve the quality in the ISL. Compared to last season, and these are the only two seasons I can speak of, we are improving. Step by step, season by season I think we can have a better league.”
Then he spoke about the CFG deal.
“I am very proud to be part of this. Very happy, very excited. This would be wonderful for us, Mumbai City and also for ISL. I think they can bring us a lot of things to help us; first at Mumbai City and then ISL,” said Costa.
Mumbai City FC and India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh said: “I think this is a very good deal. (The expertise CFG’s network has) should benefit young Indian players. A lot of things have improved over the past four-five years in Indian football and after this deal things will improve even more.”
Asked how he thought Mumbai City FC could benefit being the eighth club to join the CFG, Costa said, tongue firmly in cheek: “We could get Bernardo Silva. That is my priority.”