Panaji (Goa) [India], March 4 (ANI): Mumbai City FC clinched the ISL League Winners Shield last week by topping the points table and Islanders' skipper Amrinder Singh feels playing the tournament in the bio-secure bubble wasn't easy but the mental strength of the players made it possible for the side to perform with utmost perfection.
Amrinder, who is also the goalkeeper, finished the league stage with as many as nine clean sheets and played a pivotal role in Mumbai City's excellent performances this season.
Under Sergio Lobera, Amrinder and boys set a number of records on their way to the League Winners Shield, most notably registering the quickest-ever qualification to the playoffs in ISL history.
"Our mentality has been our strength this season. It hasn't been easy living in the bio-secure bubble here, away from our families and playing without our fans. There were many tough moments in the season where we have had to fight together and show what we as a family are all about," said Amrinder in a statement.
"We have plenty of leaders in this group, like Rowllin, Mandar, Bart, and many more. Having such figures alongside you in the dressing room really helps keep the focus where it should be. A lot of the younger boys in the team have also stepped up and shown their calibre and while they have looked up to the senior players in the squad, the seniors have also learnt a lot from them," he added.
Mumbai City FC have also qualified for the group stages of the 2022 AFC Champions League, becoming only the second Indian club to achieve the feat.
Mumbai City also went on a 12-match unbeaten run, setting an all-time ISL record for the longest streak without defeat in a single campaign before the record was bettered later in the season by the Islanders' next and semi-final opponents, FC Goa.
Having bagged the League Winners Shield and qualifying for the AFC Champions League, the Islanders' custodian Amrinder said, "It's a proud moment for every single person associated with Mumbai City, be it the squad, the staff or our incredible fans who have backed us in this difficult season from back home in Mumbai and across India."
"Bringing home the first silverware in the club's history and an opportunity to represent India in Asia is special and we're delighted that our hard work throughout the season has shown," he further said.
"I have been at Mumbai City for five seasons now and to be a part of this success with the club that is close to my heart is and always will be a special highlight of my life," added an elated Amrinder.
The 27-year-old was quick to credit head coach Sergio Lobera, who Amrinder believes has been the key reason behind Mumbai City's huge success this season.
"The coach Sergio Lobera laid down the marker right at the start of the season itself and told us we need to be ambitious. He's an incredible coach and a guide to have and his success in India speaks for itself," said Amrinder.
"With a short pre-season, it was a little challenging to adapt to a new philosophy with more than a few new players in the team but full credit to the coach to get us playing his style and his brand of beautiful football and you can see the results it has gotten us," he added.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola recently congratulated Mumbai City for their success in the ISL this year.
Commenting on Guardiola's praise, the Indian international 'keeper expressed, "It's special when someone as successful as Pep Guardiola takes notice and speaks about us. His words will only motivate us to go on and work harder and hopefully achieve more success together as a group. Now, our sights are firmly set on the semi-finals and the challenge it brings. We're ready to put our best foot forward and hopefully, bring home our first ISL trophy."
The ISL League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC will play their two-legged semi-finals against FC Goa on Friday and on March 8, at the Fatorda Stadium and at GMC Bambolim respectively. (ANI)