‘I’ve got total belief Mumbai City can go all the way this season’
A week into quarantine in Goa, Adam le Fondre saw boredom set in. “You look at the mirror and go, ‘God, I’m seeing you again!’” Fortunately for the Mumbai City FC striker, he is never too bored of scoring goals.
Playing a key role in securing Reading FC’s promotion to the 2012-13 Premier League season, the Englishman scored 12 goals in 34 outings before moving to Cardiff City. Joining Australia’s A-League in 2018, he led Sydney FC to back-to-back titles, firing 45 goals in the process.
On loan at Mumbai City, the 34-year-old marquee centre-forward has scored four goals in six Indian Super League (ISL) matches so far, while also adapting well on the flanks. “I’ve scored a lot of goals wherever I’ve been, so I thought why not come here and score some more,” he says. In this chat with HT, le Fondre talks about what drove him to join Mumbai City and his early impressions of the ISL.
It’s a fresh start for Mumbai City FC. What attracted you to this new challenge?
It’s not a secret that CFG (City Football Group) is behind the club. If you see where most of the CFG clubs are, they’ve all tended in one direction—up towards the silverware. That attracted me here. I was part of something really good in Australia, and this was a continuance of that. The chance to play for silverware again is something I thrive on. I hope the players can pick my brains and I can pick theirs as well about the league.
Are you confident Mumbai City can go all the way this season?
Definitely. I’ve got total belief, as long as everyone else has it as well. I don’t see why not—we’ve got a great group here and a real good chance, having looked at the first few games and using that as a yardstick. It surely puts us up there as one of the top squads. Now it’s up to us to perform week in and week out. And we’ve got more than enough in this dressing room to do that.
What have your early impressions of the ISL been in terms of quality of teams and Indian players?
It’s been good. It’s an exciting league. The technical level is good; there are maybe a few patches in the experience of game management and the tactical side of things. But there’s a lot of scope. There are a lot of good players here who just need a bit of polishing.
Having played top flight in England and Australia, how do you analyse the standard of the ISL and what can be done to raise it further?
Obviously, the players need to improve. Everyone attached to it needs to improve. If everyone’s level improves, the league improves. The Indian players learn from the foreign players, and they need to put in the hard hours after training to improve technically, tactically and mentally. Mental toughness is such an important factor in football. You can’t dwell on mistakes. It’s also about taking criticism the right way. People might send across a message the wrong way, and they might take that as a personal insult. I’ve seen that plenty of times in England. I’ve seen plenty of arguments where criticism comes the wrong way, and then you lose that player from the game because they’re too busy in their thoughts.
So, if all the three levels improve, then you’re on the right path of growth. There’s a great blueprint here for a quality league. It just needs to keep improving year after year. And stability is important as well. It breeds success.
You’ve delivered immediate results in the A-League. As one of the big foreign signings, you’re expected to do the same at Mumbai City. Is that good pressure?
Some of that motivates me. It’s a challenge, and that’s what I play the game for. I don’t play the game to finish mid-table or at the bottom. There’s no success in that. When you look back at your career when you’re done, you want to see medals, you want to see achievements. And for me, that’s what this is—I wanted to come here and see if I can help the club win. That’s my aim. I have tasted success in Australia and England, and I’m hoping I can bring my winning mentality across and we can rub off each other and win some silverware this season.
What’s the key to making an instant impact at a new club?
You just have to be open-minded. You have to buy into the culture of the team, the club, be fully involved to what the coach says and what the club ethos is. It’s always easier if you can buy into everything that has been said. And you’re the beacon of that, because you’re brought in as one of the foreigners. If you’re a shining example, then everyone else toes the line and follows you. That’s what you have to be—a good example. I want to help anyone who wants to talk to me about football here. That’s what an older player like me is willing to give out.