Mumbai City FC captain Mourtada Fall, who led the club to the Indian Super League title and the League Winner's Shield last season, is aiming to win every title available as he signed a one-year contract extension with the Islanders on Friday.
Mumbai City FC is back to winning ways after a series of mid-season losses and remains in contention to finish in the top-four this season. In an interview with Sportstar , Fall asserted that the team wants to retain its titles and clinch the AFC Champions League.
Mumbai City is the second ISL club to qualify for the AFC Champions League after FC Goa, and is placed in Group B alongside Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Iraq), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), and Al-Jazira (United Arab Emirates).
“Everything. We’ll try to get everything,” Fall said. “If we can get everything, good; if we can’t, it’s okay, but our target is to take the league, ISL, and the AFC Champions League also,” he added.
Having won the (Confederation of African Football) CAF Champions League with Wydad Casabianca, the Senegalese center-back has become one of the most influential defenders in ISL since his move to India in 2018.
Mumbai City FC had made a promising start to the 2021-22 season with five wins in its first six games. However, the Islanders slumped out of top four after a poor run of form since a 3-0 loss to Kerala Blasters in December and failing to win a single match till early February.
On February 6, it finally earned a victory as Vikram Singh’s late goal earned a 1-0 victory against Chennaiyin FC. Fall said that the mentality in the dressing room played a key role in getting the team back on track.
“We reacted very fast because we were collective and this is very important,” he said. “Even if we lose, we are together. This is the most important thing because it is not correct that you are always happy if you win and, if you lose, you don't talk to each other. It's a good attitude because everybody is positive and we try to keep each other positive,” he added.
‘Bromance’ with Jahouh
Fall has scored six goals for Mumbai City FC so far and four of them have come from an Ahmed Jahouh assist. The Moroccan midfielder and the Senegalese defender have become one of the most dangerous set-piece pairs in the league.
“We connect very well and I tell him when (and) where he needs to put the ball and I follow; that's why you see the always the freekicks they come perfect,” said Fall.
Fall and Jahouh have played in the Moroccan League for Moghreb Tetouan previously and were reunited at FC Goa before continuing the alliance at Mumbai City. Jahouh followed Fall in extending his stay with the Islanders, signing a contract extension a day after Fall did.
“I know Jahouh well before (ISL), so we talk to each other - for every action, (for) free kicks also, we speak and we have a big chance to speak in Arabic (so that) players don't understand,” said Fall, smiling.
Talking about Indian football and youngsters, he said they need counsel and they can shine with the potential they have.
“They need to learn a lot there because it is not easy to play the defender because, (as a) central defender, you need to be focused and intelligent for ninety-five minutes because any mistake and (it is) like you did nothing (throughout the game).”
He added, “We need to work with them to help them because they are good quality players. Valpuia (Hmingthanmawia), the central defender – he doesn't get many chances to play, but always works hard and presses on. Mehtab (Mehtab Singh) did a good job. He played very well last season,” he said.
The last time an Indian side featured in the Champions League, it failed to win a single match and was eliminated in the group stage finishing third in the table. Fall, however, has his eyes set for glory on the global stage ahead of the side's maiden appearance in ACL 2022.
“We'll represent India to and do our best. This is the first time for us (in the AFC Champions League). It is a new challenge for us and our target is to win everything."
“We enjoyed a successful season last year, and we are hopeful of making this season a memorable one as well,” he said.