Forget drawing up post-retirement plans, at 31 Mahesh Gawli is embracing the new-look India team helmed by coach Armando Colaco with zest.
"Age is barely a factor, it is performance which counts. In this long career I have managed to not give up because I stay disciplined and motivated to always perform better," said the Dempo defender, reportedly the first Indian footballer to break the R1 crore-contract barrier back in 2007 when he moved to Goa from Mahindra United.
"It always helps to move forward and not backward when it comes to wages. It's kept me motivated," he said, after a two-hour training session at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Saturday.
The Goan, moved to a wide-back position from his usual centre-back role by coach Bob Houghton, told HT that he was glad Colaco has got him back in inner defence. "I have always preferred playing centre-back but under coach Houghton I did not have a choice. I'm more comfortable now."
Gawli, a member of the Asian Cup side which lost 0-5 to UAE in the run-up to the event and whom India will face in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers on July 23 and 28, continued, "We were not a fully fit squad then and it was difficult for us to compete. We will be ready this time."
No salary caps
Gawli disagreed with Colaco that there should be salary caps to counter spiraling players' wages. "Definitely not! There is no reason why there should be salary cap. Just look at Europe," he said. "Beto and Odafa's (Okolie) move to Churchill and Mohun Bagan respectively is good for the players and the clubs." Both switched clubs at annual deals said to be well over Rs 1 crore.
Salgaocar keeper Karanjit Singh seemed almost relieved meeting the media after an intensive practice session. Not because the day's work was over, but because questions on I-League champions Salgaocar and his first silverware were inevitable. "It feels so good.”