Mumbai City FC (Rahul Bheke Twitter)
Mumbai City FC had decided to play their home AFC Champions League matches at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune.
Mumbai City FC will play their AFC Champions League clash against Al Hilal, on November 6, at the at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
The Islanders were forced to move out of their ‘home’ stadium in downtown Andheri’s Mumbai Football Arena due to inadequate facilities to host AFC Champions League games. MCFC hence moved to the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune.
Starting their AFC Champions League campaign on a disappointing note, Mumbai City FC suffered 0-2 defeat at the hands of debutants Nassaji Mazandaran of Iran.
The reason stated by the club to choose Pune over Navi Mumbai, at the time, was given to make sure ‘top-level continental footballing action stayed within Maharashtra’.
“With a rich history of hosting elite football, the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex serves as the nearest football-specific stadium to Mumbai and allows Mumbai City FC to maintain close proximity for fans to travel from Mumbai,” MCFC had said in a release.
In fact, Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, which has hosted Mumbai City FC in domestic matches before, was unavailable due to being booked by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as a practice ground for the upcoming 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
The Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune only has a capacity of about 9,000 and would prove to be insufficient due to the high interest of fans for the match against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, which boasts the likes of Brazilian superstar Neymar along with Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
The DY Patil Stadium, which is a multi-purpose stadium, has a capacity of around 55,000 and can host more fans and has better facilities.
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Head coach Des Buckingham and star defender AkashMishra had urged fans to throng the stadium in Pine ahead of the match but some seats in the stand were seen to be empty in their AFC Champions League outing.
When Akash Mishra was asked if more Indian fans coming to support AL Hilal over Mumbai City FC, he said: “I don’t think so. Because I have received so many text messages saying that I watch European football. I watch this player and that player, but in this case, it’s about the country and for sure I’ll be supporting Mumbai City FC. What we want from them is to support us and try to come to the stadium as much as they can. And yeah, we need that number, because that helps whenever the crowd is in your favour. That helps and that motivates us to do more.”