ANI Photo | “Told my players that it is our trophy…,” says Indian assistant coach on half-time talk during SAFF C’ship final

Indian men’s assistant football coach Mahesh Gawali said that he was not feeling the pressure after Kuwait took the lead in SAFF Championship final, and told his team during the half-time talk that the “Trophy is ours.”
India lifted the SAFF Championship by getting better of Kuwait in the penalty shootout at the Sri Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium in Bengaluru earlier in July. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made the difference for the Blue Colts once again as he saved a crucial penalty kick in the summit clash to help India beat Kuwait 5-4 in the shootout.
On whether he was feeling the pressure after Kuwait took the lead in the 14th minute, Gawali said as quoted by All India Football Federation (AIFF), “No, I never had that feeling. Sometimes when you are trailing, it comes to your mind “Kya ho raha hai?”, which is funny. But this time it did not come to my mind at all. I thought I was pretty much stronger than before because I knew that something was coming because I could see my players wanted to do something. I just told them to force themselves and press higher. I strongly believed that we will come back and score.”
During halftime, when head coach Igor Stimac was absent in the final due to red card offences, Gawali had told the players that the trophy should not go anywhere else.
“I told them ‘It is our trophy’ and it should not go anywhere. I was just pushing them. After all, it was my job. I needed to create that pressure because, at the end of the day, it was our trophy and the nation’s trophy. I told them not to forget this fact,” he said. 
Gawali, having represented India at the senior level in past, also tasted SAFF Championship success in Karachi in 2005.
On if winning the title was more difficult as a coach or player, he said, “Winning the title as a player, that, too, as a coach, was difficult, for sure. But now many things in SAFF have changed. Previously, only South Asian regional teams played in the SAFF. But now other teams like Lebanon and Kuwait are also participating. Yes, the team we had in Karachi had some gifted players and we faced good competition and qualities. It was a wonderful experience. Syed Nayeemuddin was our coach and his caring nature was too good. He took care of everybody in the team and there was a different type of motivation all around.”
As a footballer, Gawali had some amazing front tackles. On whether he is trying to teach the same to the centre-backs, he said, “Well, it is a difficult skill. You have to have a really strong mentality and a strong reading power to intercept the move. You have to analyse the passer and be focused on the receiver. If you miss it, then you are out and the opponent gets a clear view of the goal. Yes, I am trying to do the same with Anwar Ali. He tends to come and do the move at the training, but it takes a lot of practice, for sure.”
On a concluding note, he said that his team is on off-season, but needs to work well in advance for its next goals. 
“Well, we need to start working immediately from the next day itself because we know there’s a bigger task on our hands. The performance, fitness and all other necessary information of a player need to be kept. We should have the next plan ready at least two months in advance,” he concluded.

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