"My blood and heart is for Mumbai. I’ll always be a Mumbaikar," says Ashutosh Mehta, who is set to play his 100th match for Mumbai FC, when the I-league team face defending champions Mohun Bagan at Cooperage today.
Mumbai FC defender Ashutosh Mehta.
Coincidentally, the 24-year-old made his I-League debut against the same team in 2011 and, now, at a cusp of a personal milestone, the right back said it’s special to achieve the record in front of the home crowd.
"Playing the 100th match is a very big thing. I have grown up as a player in Mumbai. The city is like a family to me. So, it’s extra special for me to play my 100th game in front of my home fans," said the defender.
Mehta, who hails from a Gujarati family, said football was an alien sport to his people at home, where business took precedence over everything else. But with the sport growing in recent years, all have taken to the game.
"To be honest my family doesn’t understand football much. Earlier, for them it was higher you kick the ball, the better the player you were. Now, after me playing, and with football on the rise in the country, everybody is interested in the game. They understand my passion."
Mehta said he never felt he would ever play professional football.
"I never believed I would ever play professional football. It was all cricket for me, but after my 10th grade, I started liking the sport and then gradually became a professional footballer."