Dubai camp prepares Mumbai City for Indian challenge

The pre-season camp in Dubai is very crucial for the former ISL champions

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Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham (left) during the training camp in Dubai. (Supplied photo)
Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham (left) during the training camp in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

By Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 16 Aug 2022, 2:02 AM

Last updated: Tue 16 Aug 2022, 2:22 AM

Indian football club Mumbai City are primed for their domestic tournaments after an exceptional three-week pre-season camp in Dubai’s Jebel Ali.

Following a sensational beginning in the year when Mumbai City became the first Indian team to win a match in the AFC Champions League, they aim to carry the momentum into their 2022-23 season while making their maiden appearance in the prestigious Durand Cup this week in Kolkata followed by the Indian Super League (ISL) in October.

Hence, the pre-season camp became very crucial for the former ISL champions to achieve their goals. So, while looking for a place for players to transit from different parts of the world, options to train at excellent facilities and stay at world-class hotels, and importantly where temperature is high, ‘the Islanders’ looked no further than Dubai.

“We were trying to get our players to adapt to the heat. Kolkata in India is not quite 40 degrees celsius but it’s 33-34 degrees and very high humidity. So, we wanted some guaranteed weather,” Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham told Khaleej Times.

During the daytime, the 37-year-old coach worked on players’ development plans, gym programmes, connecting with them on individual level, and training was scheduled in the evening, when the temperature dips a bit but hovers around 40 degrees celsius.

“We trained in the evenings to make sure it wasn’t too hot. It was to try and prepare the players for the heat they were about to come into. It’s the first three weeks of our pre-season, so it’s not hugely intense as we are not in the middle of a competition. It was a gradual increase in what we wanted to do.”

Dubai being a transit hub for flights, and just a four-hour journey from most parts of the world, allowed players to easily fly in without feeling jet lagged.

“Dubai is a central travel point for a lot of people, it was the first time we had come back together to assemble as a squad after our off-season. We had players coming from all around the world.”

Ahead of the AFC Champions League, Mumbai City trained in Abu Dhabi.

“We have lots of trust in those connections to bring us across and set us up with some fantastic facilities both in the hotel and training. We had a great experience in Dubai before going to Kolkata,” he said as team head to feature in the Durand Cup, India’s oldest football tournament.

Senior player Rahul Beke, who became the first Indian player to score in the AFC Champions League where they finished second in the group, said that players are very keen to play the Durand Cup.

“We are taking this tournament as a challenge and as well as a stage where we can prepare ourselves for the Indian Super League.”

Mumbai City are in Group B along with East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Rajasthan United and Indian Navy.

“We have got tough teams in the group. It’s a challenge for us to face them and do well. At the same time, we are looking forward to doing better and seeing where we are physically and as well as a team we need to gel together,” Beke said.

He noted that after a stellar show in the AFC Champions League, players are keen to improve their level even higher.

“We are looking forward to maintaining and improving on the performance of the AFC Champions League for the upcoming season. We are looking forward to doing much better.”

Buckingham, meanwhile, is also excited about getting to travel and experience different cultures of India.

“After the Durand Cup, we have a couple of weeks to prepare before the Indian Super League starts around October 7. I have really enjoyed my time in India. What really excites me is spending nine months working and developing relationships with players and the club.”

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