KOCHI: Mumbai City FC captain Amrinder Singh is among the witnesses to some of the dark days that Indian football has gone through in recent memory.
The 27-year-old goalkeeper had to look on as I-League outfit Pune FC, where he started his professional career, was disbanded after they cited an inability to continue operations.
Many clubs have fallen by the wayside over the years as the sport has grappled with a myriad of issues ranging from finance to the clash between the I-League and the Indian Super League.
Today, Amrinder plays for Mumbai which is owned by City Football Group who also owns English Premier League side Manchester City among other clubs across the world as Indian football has come a long way.
And as the Islanders lifted the Indian Super League shield and secured AFC Champions League football, Pep Guardiola congratulated Sergio Lobera's team.
"Incredible success. It is part of the CFG family. Now comes the play-off. Hopefully, they can do well. Congratulations to all the people. Every league is tricky and when you win it is well deserved," said Guardiola in one of his recent press conferences.
While Guardiola's involvement with the CFG is why he chose to talk about Mumbai's success, being complimented by one of the greatest football coaches of all time has left an impression on a few of the Indian players.
"It’s special when someone as successful as Pep Guardiola takes notice and speaks about us," said Amrinder.
The India international suggested that such praise can leave a big impression on the domestic players due to his standing in the game.
"His words will only motivate us to go on and work harder and hopefully achieve more success together as a group in the semifinals and hopefully the finals of the ISL," he added.
Young Amey Ranawade came through the youth set-up of DSK Shivajians. The Pune-based outfit also features among the sides that folded up activities in the I-League after suffering huge losses. Still only 22, Ranawade has managed to break his way into Lobera's side and a reaction from Guardiola means a lot for the youngster.
"I’ve grown up watching Pep Guardiola’s teams and it’s a huge honor when someone like Pep says good things about our work. We hope we can do justice to his kind words and keep working hard and keep playing beautiful football, the way our coach Sergio Lobera has taught us," said the defender.
The quality of football in the country has improved leaps and bounds thanks to better foreigners and coaches and the Indian players have benefited from it. Under Lobera, Mumbai have been playing a very attractive and expansive style of football which is similar to what Guardiola employs for his teams.
"The philosophy and the style of football Sergio Lobera wants us to play here at Mumbai City is like an extension of the Pep Guardiola way. To hear him appreciate our football and our achievements means everything and it just reaffirms that we are on the right path," said their midfielder Raynier Fernandes.