Former India defender Mahesh Gawli has taken his first steps towards becoming a coach after taking up a job as the Chief of Training with a newly-launched football project called U-Dreams — a collaboration between Mumbai-based U Sports and German football club TSG Hoffenheim.
Ex-India footballer Mahesh Gawli
As a defender, Gawli donned the national jersey on 65 occasions besides winning the National Football League with East Bengal and Mahindra United. He then helped Dempo to clinch two I-League titles besides being a crucial part of the team that reached the semi-finals of 2008 AFC Cup.
Gawli's contract with I-League side Dempo expired in December and despite having offers from other I-League clubs, the 35-year-old chose to call time on his career to focus on being a full-time coach.
"Whatever I had to achieve by playing football, I have achieved. I could have played for one or two more years but then this project came along. For me, football is a sport that I can never get enough of as much as I play. This (the program) is also football.
It's a fantastic program which will bring so much exposure to kids and even coaches," Gawli, who is in the city to handpick kids for the U-Dreams program, told mid-day yesterday.
The U-Dreams project will see 30 U-15 kids from nearly 50 cities across the country being selected to live in Germany for six years, where they will train with the academy boys of Bundesliga side TSG Hoffenheim.
The program will also have three Indian coaches, besides Gawli — the head of coaching for the program, travelling and staying at the German club where they will work to get their UEFA Coaching Licence.
Helping Indian youngsters develop into better footballers has always been on Gawli's mind. It is with this aim that he became a consultant with the Kick Start Football Academy at Margao (Goa) back in 2009.
However, while that project shut down after a year, with U-Dreams Gawli hopes to finally realise his ambition of giving back to the sport. "This is a good project which will let me share my experience with the kids besides helping me learn the ropes of coaching. I've always wanted to give back to the sport," he added.