New Delhi: Mahesh Gawli, one of Indias finest central defenders, has decided to retire from international football after donning the national jersey for 12 years and playing in 82 matches.
The Goa-based stopper back, currently playing for Dempo Sports Club in the I-League, informed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) of his decision, on Monday.
Gawli is one of Goas most successful international footballers along with goalkeeper Brahmanand, central midfielder Climax Lawrence and attacking medio Bruno Coutinho.
Thanking the federation, his teammates and the national team coaching staff for all the support he received over the years, the 31-year-old Gawli said: It is delightful and so appropriate to have a perfect farewell to my international career on a winning note (the SAFF Championship). I will, however, continue to play club football for some more years.
It is the end of an era, said Gawlis long time teammate and former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
He remained one of the most feared defenders of our time and could have easily played abroad. I personally feel he could have continued playing international football for a couple of more years.
Known for his remarkable interceptions and heading ability, Gawli was drafted into the senior national team in 1999 after his impressive showing in the 1996 Asian under-16 championship and the pre-Olympic competition two years later.
With his Tata Football Academy (TFA) classmate Deepak Mondal being an equally solid performer, the duo went on to become one of Indias most acclaimed stopper-back pairs after Syed Nayeemuddin-Chandreshwar Prasad and Manoranjan Bhattacharya-GS Parmer.
On a different note, Gawli said: It is not fair to make a footballer play once in every three days, that, too, from 3.30pm. The federation should spare a thought for the players, he said.