Defender Hardik Bhatt ready to take the next step for Mumbai City FC

A few eyebrows were raised when Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham announced an all-Indian squad for the Super Cup but the Islanders’ come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Churchill Brothers on Tuesday showed that they are not to be taken lightly.

The game was an opportunity for several young Indian players to stand up in the absence of foreign stars and one such youngster was Mumbai boy Hardik Bhatt. Despite being one of the bright sparks from that game, Bhatt was humble in describing his own performance. In fact, he outshone all other defenders in the side.

“My performance was pretty decent. I did make a few mistakes. I’m never satisfied with my performance. It is always something that I can work on. I always think about what can be done to improve after the game,” Bhatt told mid-day on Thursday from Manjeri, Kerala. Mumbai next face NorthEast United today.

When asked about how different it is playing with an all-Indian squad, Bhatt remarked: “It’s not different at all. All players are quite experienced. People outside might think that they [Mumbai] don’t have foreign players so it will be easy to beat them but we approach the game similarly. The strategy, training or planning does not change.”

Bhatt, 25, who previously played for Rajasthan United in the I-league, was signed mid-season by Mumbai on loan. He is relishing the opportunity of representing the club he always wanted to be a part of and is overjoyed to play with his role models.

Also read: Mumbai City FC manager Buckingham wary of tough group

“I am actually living my dream. Mumbai were always my favourite team in ISL because I come from the city. I’m just enjoying my time here and trying to get better every day with each training session. It’s not easy to come into a club mid-season. Everyone has a bond with each other from the start. But here, everyone has been so welcoming, they’ve made me feel at home. I have looked up to so many players, especially Rahul [Bheke] bhai. We play at the same position and it was surreal when I just came in. I have a great bond with Bipin [Singh] bhai as well,” Bhatt said.

Bhatt also highlighted how Mumbai are a notch above the rest when it comes to professionalism. “Mumbai are one of the most professional clubs in the country with regard to the atmosphere and lifestyle that they provide. As a player, you don’t have to focus on anything else, just the football. They take care of everything else. I have been in clubs where there have been challenges with respect to lifestyle. Our coach and his entire staff have been very supportive. It is not easy transitioning from I-league to ISL but they have been very patient with me and hopefully, I can give the results,” Bhatt added.

The next aim of the versatile defender is to get a national call-up. He also expects to get more game time in the upcoming ISL.


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