Thousands of fans fell silent at the Salt Lake stadium on Saturday when Mumbai City FC (MCFC) became the ISL Champion, beating Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG) 3-1 in its backyard. 

Just a few weeks back, MCFC had a night to forget when it lost its league shield to MBSG under the same skies. But with the reversal in the final, it was a fitting end to what has been an eventful campaign for the west-coast side. 

With three wins and two draws from the first five league games, Mumbai City had a decent start to its season, but the club underwent a major change in November, when its longest-serving head coach Des Buckingham left to join England’s Oxford United.

A mid-season change in management could have derailed MCFC’s season, however, the City Football Group found an able replacement in Petr Kratky. 

The 42-year-old tactician moved from sister club Melbourne City FC, where he was an assistant manager. The role with the defending ISL Shield champion was his first assignment as a head coach, raising eyebrows, but Kratky delivered. 


MCFC finished second in the standings with 47 points, just one shy of clinching the Shield. The Islanders were incredible during the final stretch of the league, picking 25 points from the last ten games, with eight wins and a draw. But the sole loss came against MBSG in the last match, which meant they relinquished the Shield to the Mariners. 

Apart from that defeat, it lost two more games in the league with the first coming in December against Kerala Blasters while the next came against Jamshedpur FC at home in February.

The ISL playoffs, too, could have panned out differently for MCFC but for the stoppage-time heroics of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Vikram Partap Singh in the first leg of the ISL semifinal against FC Goa. The Islanders were trailing 0-2 until the 89th minute, but three goals in just seven minutes — including two in stoppage time – turned things around dramatically. In the second leg, it cruised to a 2-0 win to seal the tie 5-2.

In the final, MCFC dominated possession and controlled the tempo but was once again trailing 0-1 at halftime. But this time, the Islanders held their nerve to make a comeback to lift the coveted trophy. 

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Kratky’s influence

Kratky continued with Buckingham’s 4-3-3 formation and adopted a similar possession-based approach to his predecessor. MCFC attacked in huge numbers by crowding the opponent’s half and predominantly pushed through the wings. In the final third, MCFC usually moved deep into the flanks and made cutbacks for the strikers to attack inside the box. 

While on the backfoot, MCFC stayed deep and defended in numbers inside the box. The Islanders had the best defensive record – conceding just 19 goals in the regular league stage.

Petr Kratky

Petr Kratky


Petr Kratky

Mumbai City, however, seemed vulnerable in the first half with its defending. Eleven out of the 23 goals it conceded, including two in the knockouts, came in the first 45 minutes. 

Although MCFC had a good campaign in the ISL, it couldn’t quite reciprocate its form in other competitions. It got knocked out of the Durand Cup last year in the quarterfinals by the Mariners and despite doing well in the group stage of the Super Cup in January, the Islanders were eliminated by Odisha FC in the semifinals. 

MCFC also had a disappointing showing in Asia, losing all its six games in the AFC Champions League this season. The Islanders were in a tough group with Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Navbahor (Uzbekistan) and Nassaji Mazandaran (Iran). 

MCFC lost its home game 0-2 against the Saudi giant Al Hilal, but the scoreline didn’t do justice to how it played despite being the underdog.  

In the game in Mumbai, the Islanders were down to 10 men but fought hard to limit Al Hilal’s might on the ball despite the opposition having the lion’s share of possession (79 per cent). Although beaten 2-0, the home side showed great character against the power-packed Hilal squad.

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MCFC underwent major changes not just in its management, but in its playing staff as well. Key players Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh, who were integral in the side’s Shield win last season, left for Odisha FC. 

Left-back Akash Mishra and midfielder Yoell Van Neiff, two of the first names on the team sheet, were brought in last summer by Buckingham. They also signed a new centre-back pairing of Thaer Krouma and Tiri, who stabilised MCFC with their contributions. The Islanders also loaned in local player Jayesh Rane from Bengaluru FC, who made crucial contributions coming off the bench and had four assists in the ISL. 

High-profile overseas players Greg Stewart, El Khayati Nasser and Rostyn Griffiths left the club midway through the season in the January break and Iker Guarrotxena, the reinforcement brought in up front, got injured soon. 

Despite the drawbacks, Kratky took advantage of the depth in his squad and entrusted the domestic youngsters to keep MCFC’s boat afloat. 

From being an occasional substitute at the start of the season, Vikram Partap became one of the crucial attackers under Kratky. The 22-year-old made 23 appearances while scoring eight goals and providing four assists. His performances also earned him a spot in the Indian National team for the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. Young players like Gurkirat Singh, Ayush Chikkara, Vinit Rai and Hmingthanmawia Ralte (Valpuia) also prospered under the Czech coach. 

With ten goals and six assists, Chhangte had the highest goal contributions for MCFC, also the highest by an Indian player. A right-winger with a mean left foot, the 26-year-old was a menace on the flanks and pivotal for MCFC’s success, especially after the playmaker Stewart’s departure.

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Another youngster in the ranks, Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) was instrumental for the Islanders in the midfield. The 23-year-old created 17 scoring chances throughout the season and his passing in the middle of the park was a catalyst to MCFC’s possession style of play.


It’s only been five months since the Czech took charge and he has already become a favourite among both fans and his players.

In both victory and defeat, Kratky is always smiling, and his charismatic nature has brought a certain positivity to the side. 

“Petr gives us individual attention in training and gives us valuable insights from previous games in training. We do something new every day and we really enjoy his training sessions,” MCFC defender Mehtab Singh told  Sporstar in an interaction. 

Kratky has taken ISL by storm in his first season, helping Mumbai City FC to a well-deserved trophy. The Islanders are in safe hands and if Kratky cracks the next transfer window, it could be another campaign to remember for the men in blue.