It’s like climbing Everest for one more time: Gawli

Nilanjan Datta

Winning an I-League title isn’t any new to him. But winning another I-League title, as Gawli puts it, “is like climbing Mount Everest for one more time.” Moments after Dempo SC won their fifth League crown, the Dempo skipper spoke at length about his experience of playing in Dempo, the most feared rival striker, Indian football fans, the transfer season and much more. EXCERPTS:


What is so special about Dempo SC?
It’s a family club and in real sense, the moment one joins the club, he becomes a family member. ‘Part of the family’ isn’t just a phrase at Dempo. There’s support for the players. The management stays patient and understands the situation without putting any pressure which allows the players the freedom to play with a free mind. The Chairman (Mr. Srinivas Dempo) is always there to motivate you. All of that that makes us special, I’d say super-special.

and Dempo’s style of playing?
We stress on playing possessional football. The more you keep the ball, the better. After all, in football it’s all about the ball. Keeping possession allows you to be creative and control the pace of the game. That’s also Dempo’s speciality.

Dempo SC’s celebrating after winning the I-League

You have played all over India. Would you rate Dempo as the best club you have played in?
I’ve had good phases in all the clubs I’ve played and the memories will stay with me forever. Dempo certainly stays one of the better clubs. I’d also like to highlight my stay in Mahindra United. The facilities were good and they were a professional club who took care of their footballers. It’s unfortunate they closed shop.

Playing for East Bengal was a big honour. It’s such a historic club. But in Kolkata the fans stay impatient and come down to personal attacks whenever the team loses.

We often speak of Player’s education. How much important do you feel is Fans’ education?
How do you do that? Invariably when you go to play as a rival team, you are greeted by the choicest of abuses. They hurl personal attacks on your near and dear ones – they don’t spare anyone.

To me, that’s not passion. Obviously fans need to be passionate. But they need to respect others too. Very often, they don’t spare their own coach, players, leave aside the visiting team. You lose a match and your car is damaged, you can’t go home on your own.

In the Western World, fans are passionate too. But their players are not subject to such torture; never! Mark my words, the day fans of the club cheer for their players on the field even after a loss, the scenario will change. You shouldn’t demean others; you shouldn’t pelt stones. That’s not football.

You have played against some of the best foreign recruits in recent times. Who stays the best striker so far?
At present Ranti Martins stays the best striker. But I have never played against him. A match situation is entirely different from a practice session. In a practice session, you may hold back your tackles in the fear of your teammate getting injured. Among all those I have played against, Odafa Okolie stays way above the rest. He’s lethal.

At the club level, which has been the most memorable tournament for you so far?
I’d pick up two moments. — the ASEAN Cup triumph for East Bengal and Dempo SC qualifying for the AFC Cup semifinal.

Have you been approached by any other club to play for them next season? What about your Dempo teammates?
Our Chairman had told us long back that he would be speaking to us about next season’s contracts once the I-League ends. Winning another I-League title is like climbing the Mount Everest for one more time. The contracts for the next season can wait. Let’s enjoy the moment.