Mahesh Gawli quits international football
Ace defender Mahesh Gawli, who represented India in 82 matches, brought the curtain down on his 12-year-old international football career on Monday.
The Dempo player will now focus only on domestic football.
"Football is a demanding sport. I have played at the highest level for 14-15 years, and once you play for your country, you need to achieve continuously. I feel I've had enough of international football," said Gawli, who made his debut against Thailand during the pre-Olympic qualifiers in July 1999.
Image: Mahesh Gawli gets his jersey checked by the match commissioner during SAFF championship final
'I will focus entirely on club football'
Gawli, who will turn 32 in January, said he had a satisfying career and insisted the decision to hang his boots was unanimous.
"From my personal side, I feel I've achieved quite a lot and it's time for me to stop now and focus entirely on club football. I have consulted my family and it's a unanimous decision.
"It is delightful and so appropriate to have a perfect farewell to my international career on winning the SAFF Championship 2012 which is more heartening," Gawli said.
He will, however, continue to play club football for another "five-six years".
Image: Mahesh Gawli and Pakistani Naveed Akram struggle for the ball duirng their first match in Quetta in 2005
'Football in India has changed for the better'
Gawli also felt that football in India has changed for the better since his debut.
"The football played nowadays is entirely different. The present lot is a more confident unit who understands the value of holding onto the ball.
"Earlier, the primary focus stayed in clearing the ball. Nowadays, there's more constructive play. The mind stays pre-dominant in the brand of football we play now. The attitude and the fitness of the players have improved leaps and bounds," he insisted.
The footballer pointed out that there are a lot of sponsors coming to support the game and added the amount of exposure tours has only helped to boost the confidence of the players.
He hailed IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia for their skills and was also appreciative of Robert Fernandes and Deepak Mondal.
Image: Jordan's Al Faisaly's Abedelhadi Al Maharmeh (left) fights with India's Dempo SC's Gawli Mahesh for the ball during their AFC Cup match in 2009
Gawli positive about the young talent in the Indian ranks
"Speaking of forwards, there's always a certain IM Vijayan and a Bhaichung Bhutia. They always made the task difficult for defenders," he said.
"Robert Fernandes is one from whom I've learnt a lot. He stays as one of my personal favourites as a partner in defence. And there's Deepak Mondal. We spent four years at the TFA (Tata Football Academy) and later on partnered each other in defence. The telepathy between us was amazing. He has always been a class act," Gawli added.
Gawli was positive about the young talent in the Indian ranks.
"Prayag United's Arnab Mondal is playing well at the moment. He's tough yet confident. Then there's Raju Gaikwad (East Bengal) and Dempo's Crescent Antao. Gourmangi Singh is a senior pro now and stays the guiding force for all. I'd love to see Anwar Ali make a comeback into the National squad.
"Besides, Ravanan (Churchill Brothers), Anas Edathodika (Pune FC) and Gurwinder Singh (East Bengal) are also talented youngsters," Gawli said of the upcoming crop of defenders in the country.
Image: Gawli Mahesh