Former Odisha FC captain Vinit Rai has said that his exit from the club mid-season was because he felt the level of competition was higher at reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champion Mumbai City FC.
“Nothing went wrong [at Odisha FC]. It’s just that I am someone who loves challenging myself. I know the level of competition is higher at Mumbai,” he told Sportstar.
Rai has been one of the most consistent midfielders for Odisha, joining the side in 2017 and going on to become its most capped player with 72 appearances. For the 2021-22 season, he was declared one of the captains of the team, alongside Hector Rodas this season.
However, Odishafound itself in hot water when it lost Rai and its head coach, Kiko Ramirez, in the space of 10 days, sacking the latter after a loss to Kerala Blasters.
Rai did not delve into the club’s hiring-or-firing process and steered his reply to say the move was to improve his play. He said settling into Des Buckingham’s side has been ‘comfortable’.
“It has been comfortable, mainly because I’ve come from a team like Odisha where we were playing possession-based football as well. But for me, it’s still a new team under a new coach and in a new system. So you need to adapt,” he said.
“I wanted to face this kind of a challenge in my career because that’s going to help me get better. It’s different and it’s demanding.”
“I cannot compare because both of them are great in their own ways. I think both of them are similar with the styles they want their teams to play – possession-based and playing out from the back. But every coach is different in terms of their tactics and their strategies,” he added.
Mumbai City has been very active in the winter transfer window and has added Diego Mauricio and Chennaiyin FC winger Lallianzuala Chhangte in addition to Rai to its squad. With the team returning to winning ways after a narrow win against Chennaiyin on Sunday, he thinks the win will help the Islanders in more ways than one.
“It will boost everyone's confidence, it will help us gain the momentum to get back on track and I think that's eventually going to help us defend both the trophies,” he said.
Mumbai City sits fifth in the ISL table with 22 points from 14 matches and will be up against Rai’s former side, Odisha, next on February 13.
It will be interesting to see the midfielder put behind his allegiances and aim for a win against his former side. “We aren’t doing anything different, we want to prepare like we always do. We will definitely give our best to earn the three points,” he said.
Latest on Sportstar
- Indian sports news wrap, June 5
- TEST Pro Kabaddi PKL 8: Match 78 Highlights: Fazel takes down Pawan as U Mumba thumps Bengaluru Bulls 45-34
- Pro Kabaddi
- Sportstar South Sports Conclave: Chess and Chennai ft. Viswanathan Anand and RB Ramesh
- Sports academy in Ranchi grooming talent from economically backward communities