Indian clubs can be competitive in continent, says Mumbai City’s Rahul Bheke CanIndia News
Having won two Indian Super League (ISL) League Winners’ Shields in three seasons, Mumbai City FC have once again qualified for the AFC Champions League and are looking forward to their second stint.
Mumbai City defeated Jamshedpur FC in the Hero Club Playoff match at the Manjeri Payyanad Stadium in the Malappuram district here on Tuesday to qualify for the Continental competition.
With Mumbai City FC back in the Asian competitions, captain Rahul Bheke said Indian clubs can be competitive in the continental circuit.
For captain and full-back Rahul Bheke, playing in the Champions League is all about improving Indian Football’s standing on the continental level.
“It’s very important for any club to be able to represent India at that level. We have already done that once, and we are so happy that we will be able to do it again next season,” Bheke told the-aiff.com on Wednesday. “It is the top level of football in Asia, and we want to prove our mettle there.”
Mumbai City played in the AFC Champions League last year and finished second in their group behind Al-Shabab of Saudi Arabia. Bheke made history by scoring the winning goal in the Islanders’ 2-1 victory over Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya of Iraq.
“That was the first time we played at that level, and I think everyone was surprised by our performance. We thought it would be very difficult, but once we got used to the level, we felt that we could also match those clubs,” Bheke was quoted as saying by AIFF on its website.
“Physically, of course, they are at a better place, and the intensity was high, but we were able to show that hard work can take you places.”
Rahul Bheke, last month, was part of the Indian national team, which won the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament, in Imphal, defeating Myanmar (1-0) and the Kyrgyz Republic (2-0) at the Khuman Lampak Stadium. The full-back believes that India are now at a level where they can be competitive in Asia.
“Even with the national team, we are always there, competing with the best teams in Asia. One can never say that the boys are lagging behind in terms of pace or intensit’, so I think that’s always a great sign,” he said.
Meanwhile, the next target Mumbai City is the Super Cup, the campaign for which begins on April 11 for Mumbai City, who are placed in Group D alongside Chennaiyin FC, NorthEast United FC, and the winners of the Qualifier between Real Kashmir FC and Churchill Brothers FC Goa.
“The Super Cup is one of our targets this season. Of course, the first target was securing Champions League qualification, which we have done. Now it’s important for us to go back, recover well and prepare for the cup,” said Bheke.
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