Long-time Indian internationals Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli were felicitated by the All India Football Federation at a glittering function in New Delhi today. AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das handed over specially designed silver plaques and two National Team jerseys signed by all the National Team Players to the duo.
The Indian National Team players who are set to leave for Dubai on Wednesday for a preparatory camp for the forthcoming 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, were also present.
Kushal Das thanked both for their contribution to Indian football and said, "They have played 163 International Matches between themselves and have been part of so many winning squads. I thank both for their dedication and contribution to Indian football."
Coming to their stats. Mahesh Gawli has played 82 international matches while Climax has 81 to his name. While Mahesh has been a part of seven winning squads – two Nehru Cups (2007, 2009), two SAFF Championships (2005, 2011), 2002 LG Cup in Vietnam, 1998 Bristol Independence Cup in Sri Lanka and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup; Climax has been part of five triumphant squads – two Nehru Cups (2007, 2009), two SAFF Championships (2005, 2011) and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
"It's an honour to be felicitated by AIFF in such a manner," Climax echoed, rubbishing thoughts about a Farewell match for him. Mahesh, nodded.
AIFF Player-of-the-Year Sunil Chhetri who was also present said he has learnt a lot from the duo. "When I first came into the National squad, both of them were established stars. But never for a moment did they throw any attitude. Rather, they were overeager to help me out," Chhetri opined. "They have been exemplary disciplinarians."
While Mahesh said, "There are a lot of upcoming and talented defenders in India at present." He named Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad and Anwar as examples.
"Last time, we were part of the triumphant AFC Challenge Cup squad," Climax recollected. "I have full faith in the present bunch of boys and hope to qualify again," Mahesh added.
Climax praised the concept of Pailan Arrows, AIFF's Developmental Team in the I-League. "Pailan (Arrows) gives an unique opportunity for talented youngsters to play regularly in the I-League. The present India U-23 team is the fruit of Arrows," he commented.
Referring to a question that there not enough Indian strikers in India, Climax hit back saying, "There is Sunil (Chhetri), Jeje (Lalpekhlua), (C.S.) Sabeeth, Sushil (Singh) amongst others. The YDP (Youth Development Program) is in full flow. I compliment the AIFF for such an initiative."
"The face of Indian football is fast changing. The scenario has changed a lot from the time we first burst into the National squad. More overhauling is due in the next five years."
A lot sad, but Indian football will surely miss these two at the international level...