AIFF honour for Gawli, Climax

It didn’t take one long to hit the right superlatives as the All India Football Federation felicitated Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli -- the two recently-retired national team veterans -- here on Tuesday.

“They have played 163 international matches between them and have been part of so many winning squads. I thank both for their dedication and contribution to Indian football,” said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das.

He then handed over specially designed silver plaques and two national team jerseys, signed by all players, to the duo.

“It’s sad that they have hung up their boots, but at the same time, it’s a pleasure that they will continue to play club football,” Das added.

Next to lavish praise was striker Sunil Chhetri, who started out when the two had already established themselves in the national squad.

Chhetri said the void left by the recent retirements of Climax, Gawli and Bhaichung Bhutia would never be filled.

“It will be unfair on the youngsters to compare them with Bhaichung, Climax or Mahesh because their places will always be difficult to fill. The gap is huge as the three of them together have played almost 260 matches. The youngsters should be free of pressure,” he said.

Going back to the days when he was a newcomer in the Indian team, Chhetri said, “When I first came into the national squad, both Climax and Mahesh were established stars. But never for a moment did they throw any attitude. Rather, they were overeager to help me out. They have been exemplary disciplinarians.”

Climax and Gawli, as usual, were modest amid the pouring tributes. “It’s an honour to be felicitated by AIFF in such a manner,” Climax said.

Gawli, the pillar of India’s defence in the last decade, said, “There are a lot of upcoming and talented defenders in India at present like Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad and Anwar Ali.”

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