The Mumbai City midfielder also opined that the merger of the I-League and the ISL is the ‘next logical step’ for the development of Indian football…
After two disappointing seasons, Mumbai City FC have hit new highs this year in the Indian Super League. The Islanders witnessed a massive overhaul of the squad ahead of the new campaign in a bid to engineer a turnaround in fortunes. It is investment that has paid rich dividends so far with the club from the metropolis sitting atop the standings with 22 points from 13 games. One of Mumbai’s most impressive new recruits has been Hungarian Krisztian Vadocz.
A constant for his team this season the midfielder has weighed in with three goals in a series of fine performances so far. Ahead of his team’s final group stage match with capital outfit Delhi Dynamos, the MCFC star sat down with Khel Now’s Editor Mrunal Nakashe to reflect on the season so far, his time in the ISL, the road ahead for Indian football and lots more.
Commenting on the factors that have made his team so successful this season Vadocz said the club’s long pre-season in Dubai helped lay the foundations for a strong campaign. “All the preparations were in place and it helped us because we are in good shape and have a good atmosphere among the team. Winning matches also helped us feel good.”
Manager Alexandre Guimaraes had set his stall out to make it to the playoffs at the start of the season and with that target well and truly achieved the midfielder admitted that the team were now focussed on bigger things. “We don’t know what the semi-final fixture will be. But we have showed that we are title contenders and we have enough quality to win it,” he asserted.
Over the course of the season Mumbai have acquired the reputation of a side that knows how to get the job done without being at their spectacular best. However, all that changed after their 5-0 thumping of Kerala Blasters a few weeks ago which was soon followed by a classy 2-0 win over champions Chennaiyin FC. Reflecting on the lack of goals in the early part of the season the Hungarian said that for the team it has always been about winning, irrespective of the margin. Although, he attributed the lack of goals in the first few games to their inability to convert chances, something that now appears to have been set right at the business end of the season. He also reiterated the manager’s belief that in order to compete for the title the team has to be hard to beat first, before being expansive going forward. Vadocz identified their win in the opening game against regional rivals FC Pune City as being crucial, whilst he also pointed out that games away in Kerala, Chennai and Goa were particularly tough fixtures, not only because of the quality of the opposition, but also due to the humid weather conditions.
Bengaluru FC recently created history by becoming the first Indian club team to reach the Final of the AFC Cup and on the back of that successful campaign four of their players, including shot-stopper Amrinder Singh and India skipper Sunil Chhetri returned to the Mumbai fold. Vadocz congratulated the quartet for their exploits on the continent and said they had brought a welcome fresh impetus to the group. “It is not easy to come into the team when the team has already been through some good events. But, I think they just assimilated as smoothly as possible. They are eager to win something this year. That also gave us something positive which is good.”
The midfielder scored a screamer against Chennai as Mumbai City sealed their spot in the playoffs.
This is Vadocz’s second season in India having played for FCPC in 2014 and he said he was captivated by the atmosphere in the ISL and that the enthusiasm of the fans was attracting many international players to sample the experience. Comparing the league in 2014 to what it is now, he pointed out that one of the major differences has been the rise in confidence and the quality of local talent. “One of the strong points of the ISL is that they launched it to improve Indian players. I think Indian players have more confidence as they get to play with marquee players or international players who have 40-50 caps in their own country. Of course you get to spend 3 months with them. Such quality time will help them to improve and help Indian football.”
The former Hungary international felt that the league has grown in quality over the three years because the clubs have more knowhow and are much more sensible in their approach to assembling a good squad.
Weighing in on the debate about whether there should be more Indian players in the Starting XI the former Auxerre B man said that the current balance of 6-5 was right for now because the league is young and the presence of quality international players was important in order for it to grow as a regional and global brand. He also explained that because Indian players started their football education a lot later than their European counterparts they had lots of developing to do in some of the technical aspects of the game and playing wuth top level international players would assist them greatly in this regard.
Speaking about the planned merger of the I-League and the ISL to create a larger league with more teams and a longer season, the MCFC star opined that it was the ‘next logical step’ but cautioned that it will be a long process. Asked if it would be difficult for clubs to retain top international players for a longer period in the event of a unified top flight he said, “It’s going to be a totally different league if it’s happening. All the other players choose ISL because it is short and they get time to spend with their family. Maybe in future it will be different with new rules and infrastructure. So, you have to take that into consideration.”
Before joining Mumbai City the Budapest-born creative ace had a brief spell with Perth Glory in the A-League. “In Australia I noticed that they start every sport at an early age and are athletically and physically strong. They also start playing football at a relatively late age as compared to Europe, but their international players are playing in Europe and the best leagues. They are showing good improvement in recent times. They started many years back and have an advantage as compared to the ISL which is only three years old,” he said narrating his experience Down Under.
Commenting on Euro 2016 which took place in France in the summer under the new expanded format of 24 teams, with Hungary one among them, the midfielder branded the experiment a success pointing out that it had provided for the participation of many smaller countries like Iceland and others on the global stage, who would have otherwise missed out under the previous 16-team format.
When quizzed about what it would take for the impact of the ISL to be reflected in the growth of the national team, the midfield maestro further elaborated on the example of his native stating, “To start the ISL was the most important thing in the history of Indian football. This wave which started three years ago has been followed by Bengaluru FC’s success. I think they benefited from the ISL. International players played against good players in the ISL. It will take time but in the near future you will improve and you are on the right track.”
Finally, when told of Khel Now’s burgeoning readership in his own country, Vadocz was pleasantly surprised and closed with a special message for all his fans back home. “I just want to say that it is not possible for all Hungarian players to come and play here. But they can come here and make a visit. It is very different to be a part of Indian culture.”
Exclusive Interview by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict.