New Delhi: Indian football team defender Mahesh Gawli, who represented the country in 82 matches, brought the curtains down on his 12-year-old international career on Monday.
Gawli, who plays for Dempo on the domestic circuit, will now focus only on club 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.
The footballer, who will turn 32 in January next year, said that he had had a satisfying career.
"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 an 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.
The Dempo footballer, however, will continue to play club football for another "five-six years."
Gawli, meanwhile, hailed IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia for their skills and was also appreciative of Robert Fernandes and Deepak Mondal.
"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 one of my personal favourite 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 reflected.
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, which 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 said.
The footballer pointed out that there were a lot of sponsors coming to support the game now, and said the increase in the amount of exposure tours has only helped to boost the confidence of the players.
Gawli was also 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.
Gawli was part of the team that won seven titles, including the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup and Nehru Cup, in 2007 and 2009. He captained India in a one-off match against Malaysia in Guwahati last month. Gawli has been playing for Dempo since 2005 and was earlier a member of Churchill Brothers and East Bengal.