Clifford Miranda, Mahesh Gawli Inspired Me to Play for India: Mandar Rao Dessai
Mandar Rao Dessai said his inspiration for play for the Indian national football teams came from stars like Mahesh Gawli and Clifford Miranda.
Mandar Rao Dessai had good showing against Tajikistan in the Intercontinental Cup (Photo Courtesy: AIFF)
Ahmedabad: Former India stars Mahesh Gawli and Clifford Miranda have "inspired" Mandar Rao Dessai to represent the national football team.
Dessai was one of the two players making their India debuts in the 2019 Intercontinental opener against Tajikistan.
"I have wanted to play for the senior team ever since I started out with Dempo. I had teammates like Clifford (Miranda) and Mahesh Gawli who played for India back then and they always inspired me and helped grow as a player," Dessai said.
"They believed in me and used to say that I will play for the national team one day."
The winger-turned-fullback, who turned 27 earlier this year, was called up by head coach Igor Stimac after a stellar 2018-19 season.
"Age is just a number," he said, adding, "I have to keep my head down, work hard and keep moving forward. It was a great feeling to wear the Indian colours and be on the pitch. Now, I have to keep my place in the squad and I'm always ready to play whenever the coach wants me to."
The Goan started the Tajikistan clash on the left side of the Indian defence - a role he started playing only from last season.
"I accepted the challenge and even though it was my first time playing left-back, I eventually settled and enjoyed playing in the position," he said.
According to Mandar, his attacking style of play is something that makes him a valuable asset for Stimac, given the style of football he wants the team to play.
"The coach believes that I can help in the attacking side of the game. It is my strong point and it's always on my mind to go forward and help build up attacks. He wants the team to keep the ball and move up the pitch slowly, which is a style I am familiar with at club level as well," Dessai said.
The Blue Tigers will take on North Korea in their next clash on Saturday and the match will be critical as they vie for a place in the final.
Talking about the mood in the team, he said that the players are "not thinking about the previous result" and will keep working harder in order to obtain a positive result.
"We had a great performance in the first half of the last match but the second half was not good. We are a young team and as senior players, we have to encourage the youngsters and ensure we bounce back strongly," he said.
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