ISL 2024: How footballer Jayesh Rane created history

Jayesh Rane became the only Indian footballer to win the ISL with three different teams when he won ISL 2024 with Mumbai City FC

Shail Desai
First Published29 May 2024
Jayesh Rane in action for Mumbai City FC.
Jayesh Rane in action for Mumbai City FC.(Courtesy Mumbai City FC)

At the start of the 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) season, Jayesh Rane was uncertain about his upcoming loan spell with Mumbai City FC. Game time had been hard to come by at his parent club, Bengaluru FC, the previous season and he figured it would be more of the same at Mumbai City. 

“The previous coach, Des Buckingham, made the switch easier for me. He told me that I fit into his game plan, since I was the kind of attacking player he was looking for. But he had his set of players who had been working with him for a while. So I knew it would be difficult to get opportunities to play, but I took it as a challenge,” Rane, 31, recalls. 

The gamble paid off. By the end of the season (earlier this month), Mumbai City FC became ISL champions after they beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the final. It was the third time Rane picked up the glittering ISL trophy, becoming the only Indian player to have won it with three different clubs. 

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“This trophy was for Mumbai, my home, my city, so it will always be special,” he says. “It’s even more special for my wife, Shraddha. She was there when I lost the ISL final last season with Bengaluru and again when we (Mumbai City) lost the ISL Shield this year. So she’s glad to have finally broken the jinx,” he quips. 

Though he was signed by Bengaluru FC to play his favoured position as an attacking midfielder, Rane found limited game time with just one start through all of last year. Buckingham’s departure in November 2023 brought in Petr Kratky as his replacement. It’s when things got better for Rane. 

“It’s hard for any footballer to sit on the bench, especially since I had experienced a similar season the previous year. So the hunger was immense and that translated on the training ground. The coach was quick to spot it and handed me my chances,” Rane says. 

His loan stint will be best remembered for a moment that is now part of Mumbai City folklore and which changed the course of their season that would have otherwise ended without silverware. 

During their semi-final first leg at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao, the scoreline read 2-0 in FC Goa’s favour in the 89th minute. A few had settled for putting up a better performance in the second leg back home in Mumbai the following week. But Rane, who had come on as a substitute in the 64th minute, had other ideas. 

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“Coach asked me to do what I did best and not hesitate when it came to taking risks,” Rane recalls. He received the ball in the centre of the pitch and sensed a run being made by his teammate, Lallianzuala Chhangte. Two deft touches later, Rane released a timely ball that bisected Goa’s two central defenders and landed at Chhangte’s feet. Chhangte kept his cool to skip past Goa goalkeeper, Dhiraj Singh, and brought Mumbai City back in the game. 

“The pass is something that I’ve seen multiple times since then. That game did wonders for my confidence and it’s only increased my hunger for success,” Rane says. 

A minute later, Vikram Pratap Singh scored the equaliser and by the full-time whistle, Rane had another assist to seal the tie 3-2 in Mumbai City’s favour. The shock turnaround seemed to have an adverse effect on FC Goa, with Mumbai City FC winning the return leg 2-0.

“We went through so many things this season. The coach left, a few foreign players left mid-season. Any other side would have struggled. But everyone stuck it out together, which makes this team really special,” he says. 

Rane’s football journey came full circle with the triumph. As a junior, he started out at Mumbai FC that competed in the I-League and disbanded in 2017. It was where he first found a mentor in Khalid Jamil, under whom he played for over four years. 

“Khalidbhai essentially gave me the football sense and shaped me into the player I am today. I’ll always be thankful to him and Mumbai FC’s academy set up,” Rane says. 

“I spoke to him after the final and he simply asked me to come join him at Jamshedpur FC (an ISL club where Jamil is currently the coach) next season,” he says, laughing. 

After eight long years at Mumbai FC, he made his ISL debut with Chennaiyin FC in 2014-15, where he won his first ISL crown. He reunited with Jamil at Aizawl FC to lift the I-League in 2016-17 and three years later, picked up his second ISL with ATK. 

“The opportunity to play different positions under so many coaches has been an incredible learning experience. It’s been difficult at times because every coach comes with different ideas. But it’s made me mature as a player and has given me the ability to read the game better. And I know there’s a lot more I have to give in the time ahead,” Rane says. 

That said, there’s a sense of disappointment in having missed out on making the India squad for the Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Kuwait and Qatar in June. “It only means I have to work harder, get better and hope that I get the call in the time ahead. Playing for the national team is a dream I want to fulfil,” Rane says. 

Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.

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