"My heart is filled with gratitude" - Skipper Rahul Bheke bids farewell to Mumbai City FC after three successful seasons at the club

Rahul Bheke established himself as a linchpin in the Mumbai City defense over the three seasons.
Rahul Bheke established himself as a linchpin in the Mumbai City defense over the three seasons. (PC: Mumbai City FC Media).

After three incredibly successful years at the club, Mumbai City FC confirmed the departure of Rahul Bheke on Saturday, May 31. His contract with the Islanders expired on the same day.

The Mumbai-born defender joined his hometown club on a free transfer in August 2021 and represented Mumbai City on 78 occasions across competitions.

He posted an emotional farewell letter dedicated to the Islanders across his social handles.

"Reflecting on my incredible journey here, my heart is filled with gratitude and cherished memories. From the moment I joined this club, I was embraced by an amazing team, dedicated support staff, and the most passionate fans a player could ask for. And together, we have celebrated victories, overcome challenges, and created unforgettable moments on and off the pitch," Bheke wrote.

The defender donned the Mumbai Blues in the ISL, the Durand Cup, the Super Cup, and the AFC Champions League. Bheke became the first Indian player to score in the AFC Champions League by scoring the winning header in a 2-1 victory against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.

"To my teammates, thank you for your unwavering support and the relentless spirit you brought to every match. It's been an honor to share the field with such a talented group of individuals. Each one of you has contributed to my growth as a player and as a person," he stated.

Bheke worked under three coaches at the club, starting with Sergio Lobera for a brief period, then largely with Des Buckingham, and with Petr Kratky in his final few months at the club.

"To the coaches and the entire backroom support staff, thank you for all your guidance, dedication, and support. Special mention to Suhas Kandekar for tirelessly looking after me and taking care of me and my injuries and having me match-ready every time," he added.

He said in his message to the Mumbai City fans:

"Your energy & enthusiasm have been our driving force. Your chants, cheers & unwavering support have meant the world to us. Playing in front of you has been a privilege, and your belief in us has inspired me to give my best every single day."

After leaving Mumbai with the ISL 2022-23 League Winner's Shield and ISL 2023-24 Cup medals, Bheke will now pursue greener pastures elsewhere.

A look back at Rahul Bheke's performance for Mumbai City in ISL 2023-24

Rahul Bheke was long touted as a linchpin in the Mumbai City backline and in the 2023-24 season, he further cemented that assessment. Petr Kratky consistently highlighted the significance of the 33-year-old defender within the squad, underscoring his consistency and leadership qualities.

Throughout the season, Bheke proved to be an indispensable component of the Islanders' defensive setup, boasting 21 tackles, 74 successful duels, 101 recoveries, and helping the club keep eight clean sheets.

His adaptability emerged as a standout attribute, seamlessly transitioning between various defensive roles, including right and left-sided center-back positions, in addition to his customary duties as a right-back.

Bheke's experience and tactical acumen were invaluable assets, particularly in high-pressure situations. As reports suggest, the veteran full-back might be heading to Bengaluru FC next, and arguably he'll be an asset for any ISL club he signs for.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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