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Greg Stewart: Riding the waves

While everyone is familiar with the super-successful Greg Stewart, let's delve into the incredible journey that paved the way for his success.

Greg Stewart: Riding the waves

Greg Stewart (Image via Mumbai City)


Aswathy Santhosh

Updated: 18 Oct 2023 10:20 AM GMT

'Whatever happens, happens for a reason,' Greg Stewart reiterated throughout our 20-minute conversation. As the conversation progressed, it became increasingly evident why this phrase held such importance for him.

It's Greg's third year in India, a player secretly admired even by rivals. He has a chance to win three league shields in a row, but it didn't happen just like that, Greg starts talking.

'As a 16-year-old, it's not the best feeling to hear things like I heard as a young boy. I was told I'm too small to continue in the youth programme. But whatever happens, happens for a reason. It was a fight to prove everyone wrong after that.'

The power of hope

The fight to prove everyone wrong dragged on for nine years until he was rewarded with a professional contract at the age of 25. Not many have the willpower to stay hopeful for that long, but the then 16-year-old knew that he was destined to be a footballer.

'I always knew that I have what it takes to be a professional player. There's no easy path. And obviously, when you get those disappointments, it makes you want to prove people wrong.'

The first thought most people might have when they see Greg Stewart dance through opponents with a ball at his feet is 'he's definitely got the quality to play in European leagues,' but getting to this point was a journey through a bumpy road for Greg.

'Of course, it's a kick in the teeth when you get released from a club, but it makes you the person you are today. When you get that disappointment, you want to prove people wrong in life. And when you get older, you want to keep proving people wrong.' And he pauses with his favourite phrase again, 'You know, everything happens for a reason.'

There is no need for regrets in life, Greg continues, 'I believe that, whatever it is, whether it's good or bad, everything happens for a reason. When bad things happen, you learn from it. The only way to learn is when you make a mistake, but when you make a mistake, you have to learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again.'

Greg Stewart league title with Rangers(Image via Greg/IG)

Whether it's football or life, everything depends on mistakes, and Greg simplifies it. 'In football, lots of mistakes happen, but the team that makes fewer mistakes will win the match and trophies. Everyone, even the best players, makes mistakes. But they don't make many mistakes and that's why they're the best players in the world.'

Life will give you a chance, and you have to take it. Greg took it and proved everyone wrong, as he always wanted, although it took longer than others. At the age of 25, Greg Stewart signed his first professional contract. And he didn't have to look back after that.

Greg went from playing part-time for a Scottish third-division club to winning his boyhood club Rangers a title after a long nine-year gap, putting an end to Celtic domination.

Rangers FC league win(Image via Greg/IG)

'I always believe what's meant to happen is meant to happen. For me, winning the league with Rangers was top of the world, you know, it was everything. Everything I dreamed of as a kid. It was an unbelievable season for the club and the fans. I'll never forget that moment when they lifted the trophy; that was massive for the club.'

Unforeseen Destination

But who would have thought the Scottish Premiership champion would take a flight to India after lifting the title? Sometimes life takes you to unfamiliar destinations, even if you have fear; maybe it's for the good, Greg believes. And after two years in India, life proved him right.

'After Rangers, I wanted to try something different. I wasn't too sure about India because it was quite far away from home. And it was totally different. I had never been to India before. I didn't know what to expect. But Owen Coyle obviously talked me into it. And he's good at talking.' Greg smiles.

Greg Stewart with Owen Coyle

Greg continues after a short pause again with his favorite phrase. 'And as I say, everything happens for a reason. I'm so happy I tried it because I am having a great time here. Being away from family is the only difficult thing; other than that, I've had a great time. And obviously, I have won two league titles in a row with two different teams. It couldn't have gone any better.'

Winning one league shield must be a dream for many players to this day. Greg Stewart is living everyone's dream. And what's better than winning one? Winning two in a row? That is done, and now he has a chance to three-peat. But Greg likes to stay grounded.

'That's another massive challenge. When you win the league, every other team wants to beat you. We have to be ready for the challenge. Every game is going to be difficult, and most teams have actually improved the squad, and anyone can beat anyone. So the season is going to be very challenging.'

Teamwork for the win

In the face of challenges, having someone who shares the same ideologies to lead the team helps.

'Des Buckingham sees football the way I see football, attacking, front foot pressing the opposition when you don't have the ball. Of course, he's still very young as a manager. He's still learning. But he's got a lot of qualities that you can see.'

Greg continues but not about Des, about the assistant coach Hiroshi Miyazawa, whom Greg lovingly addresses 'Miya.'

Mumbai City league title(Image via Greg/IG)

'Miya, our Assistant Manager, he's also great; he has experience. He does set pieces and stuff, which not a lot of people do. Des being young as a manager, they seem to be working well together.'

Nation's Pride

Mumbai City carries the hopes of an entire nation when they take the field to play the Asian Champions League. Juggling between ISL and ACL can be a herculean task, but the final results don't always show justice to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

'In the first two games, we've actually just played our normal game. I think we played really well. But at the end of the day, if you don't score at one end, unfortunately, we'll punished for our mistakes on the other end.'

But as Greg believes, everything happens for a reason. And now the Islanders have a chance to pull off a big upset against Al Hilal. But the pressure is on Al Hilal, Greg says.

Greg Stewart in training(Image via Mumbai City)

'It's against superstars in world football. So there's not really much pressure on us, to be honest; all the pressure is on Al Hilal, with the stars they have. So we just have to go into the match, give everything, enjoy it. You never know what can happen in football; something may just click for us or they might not be at their best. We will obviously need to do some work on our side. Anything can happen, but that's why football is so beautiful. So we'll go there and do our best to represent India well.'

Greg Stewart

Not every day you will get a chance to play against Neymar Jr, Greg adds. 'And yeah, it's something we're looking forward to because you don't get the opportunity to play against some of these players in your career. We're excited.'

Greg took help from his roommate to confirm the name of the Indian food he loved.

'Dahi Poori, isn't it? I like Dahi poori. But to be honest, I'm not really a fan of too many spices, so I try to eat the basic foods.'

A smile lingered around his face when he said Dahi Poori. And the smile widened when the fans were mentioned.

'We played our first home match against Kerala, back at Mumbai Football Arena. We've not been there for a long time obviously we were missing them. They bring so much energy. And we play Al Hilal in a different stadium, and I'm hearing that it is sold out, which is unbelievable. We want to keep playing good football and hope many more fans come and support us every week.'

Greg reiterated a timeless sentiment in the football world: 'Because without the fans, football is nothing; it's a game for the fans.'

Indeed Greg, we wholeheartedly concur!

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