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Mumbai should have more football clubs: Rahul Bheke

11:18 PM Nov 28, 2021 | Anil Dias

Mumbai: Mumbai City FC's new signing Rahul Bheke is a product of city's football. Having begun his career in the youth system of Mahindra United and then playing a lot of football here, the 30-year-old has gone on to have a stellar career, representing the Indian national team 18 times so far.

However, Bheke said he is not pleased with the current state of the system that he has come through.

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When I was in the youth setup, there was a big platform for the youngsters to achieve their dreams,” Bheke told FPJ.

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Mumbai used to have at least three teams in the I-League till corporate teams were disallowed from competing in what was once India’s premier football tournament.

Mahindra United, ONGC, Air India and later Mumbai FC were the teams that competed year after year. The teams had a good youth setup with the youngsters, mostly from Mumbai, playing in the city’s top division.

After Mumbai FC disbanded in 2017,and though the I-League has been relegated to the second tier, there’s not a single team from Mumbai in the league. Kenkre FC played the qualifiers this season, but lost in the final round.

If youngsters wanted to get into the senior national team, there was a platform for that. Now there's only one team in senior football and that's Mumbai City FC (in the Indian Super League)."

"So I'm really sorry, I'm not happy that the youngsters nowadays in Mumbai don't have that platform,” said Bheke, who scored the winning goal for Bengaluru FC in the 2019 ISL final. When asked what is needed to develop football in Mumbai, Bheke said, “The most important thing is there should be more clubs in Mumbai. And they should have their reserve teams like Mumbai City have. So those are the most important aspects I can say (to develop football)." “Academies are important but only one academy won't help. So, if Mumbai City is starting an academy, more clubs should start too.

"In Mumbai, there are many youngsters who are good footballers and it's important there should be at least three or four clubs in the top division where these players can look forward to joining and playing with the best players or work under the best coaches and achieve their dreams,” he said.

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