Mandar Rao Dessai: ‘We are there for the youngsters’

“I think all payers are helpful to each other and that in turn helps the young players to get motivated, to perform well — not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch,” says Mumbai City FC captain Mandar Rao Dessai.

Mandar Roa Desai of Mumbai City FC and Anirudh Thapa of Chennaiyin FC in action during the Indian Super League. ““I think all payers are helpful to each other and that in turn helps the young players to get motivated, to perform well — not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch,” Mandar says.   -  Focus Sports / ISL

Mumbai City FC captain Mandar Rao Dessai is enjoying the record for the most appearances in the Indian Super League. But when he dons the MCFC jersey and the captain’s armband, individual feats take a backseat.

Dessai and Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall are entrusted with captaincy this season and the 29-year-old said that the role of two captains was to have the team together and help youngsters.

“We respect each other and we do not have a very big role in the team (individually), because I think we are good as a team together,” he said.

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“I think all payers are helpful to each other and that in turn helps the young players to get motivated, to perform well — not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch,” he said.

“Whoever comes in as captain has to help the young ones to be comfortable. We have to give them confidence to perform well. Whenever young ones need us, we are there for them.”

Playing since the inaugural season of the Indian Super League, the defender has played with as well as under legends of the game, from Zico to Roberto Carlos and explained the role of foreigners in the league.

“There have been a lot of foreign players when the league started and now, as you know, there are four (allowed). In the first three-four seasons, the foreigners who came in — we could learn a lot from them.”

“We had to be on that level so that we could perform better. I was with Lucio and Robert Pires, so I know how they helped us grow as a player and always gave the confidence to do well in the games,” he said.

Talking about the head coach, Mandar said, “There are few changes here and there, but he has the same ideas. Des (Buckingham) is a lot more — how you go into the match in detail, how you play and be comfortable, because each and every game is different and we have to perform (in) every game in a different way.”

“It is not easy and in a very short time we have to recover, not only physically but mentally as well and always get ready for the next one.”

The Goa-born footballer helped Dempo earn promotion into the I-League for the 2015-16 season. The 2020-21 season saw Dessai lose his father to COVID-19, but he returned to ISL helping Mumbai City FC win the ISL title last season.

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“I think it is always difficult how you get ready for the season, but as a professional player, you got to take everything in a positive way and concentrate on what you would like to do.”

While Mumbai City FC stutters with three alternate losses after the first six games, Mandar is optimistic that his team stands a chance of returning to tune eventually in the league.

“Our aim is to win ISL, the shield and the cup but we will go one game at a time and wait until March to see how far we go,” he said.