ISL 2020-21: Mumbai City’s Mandar Rao Dessai becomes first-ever player to make 100 ISL appearances

Mumbai City FC’s Mandar Rao Dessai scripted history by becoming the first footballer in ISL history to feature in 100 matches as the Highlanders took on East Bengal tonight.

It is a milestone that no other player – even the more high profile names in Indian football – has managed to achieve and highlights the commitment, adaptability and dedication of the player.

Speaking ahead of the historic feat, the left back said, “Next game will be my 100th in the ISL and I’m really proud of this. I dedicate this to all the players who have played with me and the coaches who have helped me to play each and every game in this league. It is very important as a player to achieve this especially in the league where you know there are so many players who have been playing from the very start of the ISL.”

 

The 28-year-old footballer from the tranquil town of Mapusa in Goa was among the footballers who lined up in the inaugural edition of the ISL back in 2014.

What makes his achievement all the more impressive is that he had to make adjustments to his game and adapt to the demands of his coaches.

Mandar who started his career as a left-winger slowly evolved into a left-back in recent years and the ability to adapt is what has kept him ticking.

Out of his 99 ISL appearances so far, 97 of those came at FC Goa. Back then, Mandar was not the most prominent players even when it came to the Indian contingent. It was the likes of Romeo Fernandes who hogged the limelight and the adulation of the fans at the Gaurs.

As seasons went by, while Romeo started fading away and the squad started getting overhauled season after season, Mandar grew in stature and his reliability and versatility allowed him to survive a major ownership change and the departure of Zico.

Mandar quickly won the trust of Sergio Lobera who transformed him from a left winger to a left fullback and he even went onto become the club captain. Last season, he helped FC Goa win the league phase of the ISL and qualify for the AFC Champions League.

It also helped his national team chances as Igor Stimac has also been using him in that role for India.