Mumbai City’s top scorer from last season Modou Sougou, who is sidelined with an injury at the moment, has warned ISL sides by stating that they will see the real face of MCFC if the injured players recover in time. Mumbai are currently sitting eight on the ISL table with one win from four matches.
The Islanders haven’t had the kind of start to the season they had imagined ahead of Jorge Costa’s second stint in India. They have lost two of their home games in the first four matches with the manager accepting that the players have lacked confidence.
The Portuguese gaffer had brought in Diego Carlos, Rowlin Borges, and Mato Grgic amongst the proven ISL names to add to an already settled playoff-reaching side from last side – a transfer window that had made Mumbai as one of the favourites to lift the title. However, four games down and Costa is now without Borges, Grgic, as well as Sougou with skipper Paolo Machado also returning from an injury.
The continuous tweaking wasn’t helping Costa’s side and after their last two losses at the Mumbai Football Arena against Odisha FC and FC Goa, both by a 2-4 scoreline, the manager had hinted at a desperate break for his players. While many would attribute Mumbai’s current form to a certain under-confidence simmering in the dressing room, Sougou refused to agree to it.
“I don’t think it is a psychological blockade. If you compare this team to that of last season’s, we lost so many players ( Luican Goian, Arnold Issoko, and many more), and new players would need time to adapt. Every time, the start is difficult for teams and we have to go through this part,” said Sougou in an exclusive interview with SportsCafe.
“We know we haven’t started well but there are teams who didn’t start smoothly either. We have so many things to do and I believe that if the injured players recover in time, we will see the real face of Mumbai. We will build our team step by step and our sight is set on our target – to qualify in the top four,” the Senegalese added.
It was in Mumbai’s stalemate against Chennaiyin FC that Sogou got injured and has been in rehabilitation since. However, it would be extremely frustrating for Mumbai to have their best striker out for an indefinite period especially when the domestic league is only five-months long. Sogou, however, has revealed that he has to stay calm and do the recovery procedures.
“The problem of injury is very normal in football and I’ve learned from my experience that one cannot be fit every time. We’re human and sometimes with the games or preparations and varying weather conditions in the city, like in Mumbai it rains a lot for example, and not only in Mumbai but every team faces this problem.
“I can say 80% of the injured players in the league have hamstring problem, which could be the heavy grounds, the continuous travels, games, and we are left with little time for recovery as well. Hence, it's not frustrating but normal. The important thing is to be clear in my mind and do my physical training well when not playing,” he added.
Sougou, however, gave a clear hint that he didn’t know when he was going to return for Mumbai, which could be worrying for the fans. “I have to focus step by step on my physical condition because if I go in hurry it won’t be good for me. I am only focusing on being ready to train tomorrow and to train well, to sprint and all training and give my 100%.”
Sogou had scored a whopping 12 goals in 16 games last season but ISL has moved on already. With the likes of Roy Krishna (ATK 3 goals), David Williams (ATK 3 goals), Ferran Corominas (FC Goa 3 goals), Sergio Castel (Jamshedpur FC 3 goals), Aridane Santana (Odisha FC 3 goals), taking the league the league by storm, Sougou will have an uphill task ahead of him.
However, the centre-forward has stated that the race of top scorer doesn’t bother him and his only concern has been how to help his side reach the top four. ”What I did last season is past. My only focus is to come back stronger this season and help my teammates. I am not focused on anything else because, if I score 20 goals and my team isn’t the top four, then it won’t matter anyway. The most important is the collective goal. We win together and lose together,” he said.
Sogou has been a success in ISL as a centre-forward in his debut season, but a closer look at his entire career in France, England, and Portugal, the forward has been quite prolific from the flanks with as many 15 goals and 19 assists from the right-wing.
However, the forward has revealed that he always dreamt of playing as a striker and Costa knew that when he asked him to come to India last season. But, Sougou also added that for him, the most important thing was to be on the pitch.
“I dreamt of playing as a striker but, for the balance of the team I was pushed to the wings as in my previous teams, the strikers couldn’t play winger which wasn’t the case with me. However, to me, the most important thing was to stay on the pitch.
“I don’t have a problem with playing goalkeeper as well. I would play on the right-wing if asked to because with Mumbai too because we are all playing for the team and whatever suits them would be great. It’s not a sacrifice but what we are paid for,” Sougou concluded.