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My steady rise to success can inspire many: Vignesh

The MCFC defender credits Ozone Academy for shaping his future

D. Vignesh vividly remembers the early days of the Indian Super League (ISL). “We all know who all came… Del Piero, Marco Materazzi and all stars. I didn’t even dream of playing ISL because I wouldn’t have got in. There was Lucio, Elano… all world cup players. I thought I could reach that stage only much later.”

After six years of toil, the 22-year-old Bengaluru native has finally realised his dream, becoming an integral part of Mumbai City FC, for whom he has played in all sixteen games this season — including eight starts.

The icing came against Hyderabad FC last month when he scored one of the goals of the season, a stupendous volley after bombing forward from his left-back position. On Monday, he will be up against his hometown club Bengaluru FC, as Mumbai looks to ward off ATK Mohun Bagan’s threat in the race for the AFC Champions League spot.

“I feel very lucky to have got this opportunity under Sergio Lobera (Mumbai coach),” Vignesh says. “Last two years I didn’t get many chances (under Jorge Costa). So, I wanted to prove myself. I am training with that mindset and that is what has helped me do whatever I have in the available game-time.”

Vignesh credits the Ozone Academy in Bengaluru for shaping this journey of his, that has also seen him play for the India age-group teams before making his national team debut at the 2018 SAFF Cup. “At Ozone, for the first two years I was under Bert Zuurman from Holland. His game style was similar to Lobera’s. That’s where I first learnt that a left-sided defender can also play on the attack. Then under David Booth I felt a big impact on my game. He knew what was required to succeed in India and I developed the aggression and confidence.”

“Lobera believes in the same attacking style I was playing at Ozone. So, it was easy to fit in and also easier to understand what the coach wanted.”

Vignesh believes that his story can inspire more players in the various city-based local leagues to dream big. “I have reached this stage after playing BDFA Super Division (in Bengaluru) and I-League Second Division. So, it is not impossible for those players to come up. If you are focussed and true to yourself, you can achieve. That should be the motto. Why limit at ISL, you can even go abroad and play.”

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