‘Mumbai City FC are the club who can help me’: Apuia boosts Europe ambitions after association with City Football Group | Football News - Hindustan Times
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'Mumbai City FC are the club who can help me': Apuia sets sight on Europe after association with City Football Group

ByShivam Saha, New Delhi
Nov 26, 2021 09:41 PM IST

The 21-year-old asserts this is just the beginning, adding the objective behind the switch from Northeast to Mumbai to boost his ambitions to play in Europe.

Ever since bursting into the scene as the first footballer from Mizoram to be part of India's U-17 World Cup squad in 2017, Lalengmawia Ralte, popularly known as Apuia, has not looked back, striving towards success with every passing day.

Mumbai City FC midfielder Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) during a practice session. (Twitter/MumbaiCityFC)
Mumbai City FC midfielder Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) during a practice session. (Twitter/MumbaiCityFC)

The defensive midfielder finished the previous Indian Super League (ISL) season as the Emerging Player of the tournament, the highlight of his campaign being the screamer against Kerala Blasters, a goal reminiscent of the famous Vincent Kompany strike against Leicester in the Belgian's final days at Manchester City.

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Now the 21-year-old is part of the elite City Football Group (CFG) and continues to impress with his game at his new club Mumbai City FC, the reigning champions of ISL.

Sharing his thoughts on the journey, which took off in the muddy terrain in Mizoram to now becoming a record transfer, fetching 16.66 million (INR) as per the evaluations done by transfermarket.co.in, the midfielder said he is content with what he has achieved in the significant period. 

"It was a tough journey. When I used to play in I-League, I was not getting game time. In the first ten matches, I was a substitute before making a debut on the eleventh. Then after playing two seasons for Northeast, I played for the national team. And now in Mumbai, the best club in India, everything feels perfect," Apuia told Hindustan Times in a telephonic interview.   

The youngster, however, asserts this is just the beginning, adding the objective behind the switch from Northeast to Mumbai is to boost his ambitions to play in Europe. 

Mumbai City FC pose for a team photo ahead of their ISL match against FC Goa. (ISL)
Mumbai City FC pose for a team photo ahead of their ISL match against FC Goa. (ISL)

"Mumbai is a club that will always fight for trophies, is part of the AFC Champions League. Getting associated with the City Football Group was also very important since I aim to play outside India, and they are the club who can help me," explained Apuia, who was a vital cog at his former club. 

Inspirations from Chhetri 

When asked how it feels sharing the pitch with legendary Sunil Chhetri, the 21-year-old hailed the current Indian skipper's discipline, which he believes makes India's number 11 what he is now. Chhetri is 37 and leads both India and Bengaluru FC.

"He's a legend, everyone's favorite, and the main reason he's still playing is because of his discipline. What he is eating, sleeping time, training, recoveries, everything about him is very professional. He's also a good mentor, who always wants to help the young players and wants Indian football to improve," shared Apuia.

'Football is more about the brains'

Apuia, who averages around 5ft10, has also burst the myth of football being a sport only for the physically strong. The 21-year-old cited examples of former Barcelona midfielders who revolutionised the game despite lacking muscle power but considers Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo an exception.  

"It's important to have a strong leg and body, but at the end, football is played with the head. The body is just a machine that is working and the most important part is your brain. If you look at Sergio Busquets, Pirlo - one of the best midfielders. Iniesta, Xavi too except Ronaldo. The best players like Neymar don't have big muscle, which means the most important thing is your head."

"If you can run at the same speed as anybody else and you can anticipate whom to pass before you get the ball, that is more important," the midfielder said.

ISL's new changes in Playing XI

A new rule has been implemented in the ongoing season of ISL, which makes it mandatory to have seven Indian players on the pitch at all time. Apuia considers the modification "an important step for Indian football."

Explaining how it will shape the future of Indian football, the 21-year-old said, "it's going to be eleven more Indian players on the pitch compared to the previous season," referring to the total number of teams in ISL.

"If you don't play matches or tournaments, training doesn't help you a lot. So having more competitive match time is always going to help Indian football. It will help all the players who are not getting enough chance and there will be more chances for the substitutes too," the 21-year-old added.

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