Talent and experience go hand in hand in each and every sport. Whether it is a game of football or one of chess, sheer talent can only take you so far. It is your experience that counts after that. Football is one such sport; teams are heavily reliant on experience and talent in equal measures in order to achieve success. While talent can never substituted, it is often the presence of experienced players in a side that turns the tide in their favour. The Hard Tackle takes a close look at 5 Indian footballers who are in their thirties and are still ever hungry for greater success.
Climax Lawrence, Mumbai F.C-34
34 year old Climax Lawrence is rightly touted as the best midfielder India has ever produced. Born in Goa, the ever-young midfielder started his career at Vasco as a striker before evolving into one of the most intelligent centre-midfielders in the country. Earning accolades at every step in his career, Climax has won almost every trophy there is to be won in Indian Football. But the quiet midfielder from Margao is far from done as he remains hungry for more success.
His accurate passing and his ability to control the game effectively saw him become the pivotal player in each and every team that he played for. Known for his intelligent play-making skills, Climax ensured that he could be counted upon by his team mates and his coach when it mattered most. From scoring crucial goals to providing the necessary tackle to break down an attack, his tireless endeavors on the pitch along with his behavior off it saw him become one of the most respected players in the dressing room.
Though on the wrong side of 30, Climax remains an inspiring figure in the Mumbai FC dressing room. Working tirelessly all over the pitch, he hasn’t showed any dip in performance in the past couple of years and is one of the best signings made in the transfer season this year. He moves the ball intelligently and has been instrumental in Mumbai’s brilliant start to the I-League. He still has the potential to score a late winner as shown against Churchill Brothers. His experience in the midfield is invaluable to the relatively new side and the club will be heavily dependent on his form if they are to pose a serious threat to the opposition in the I-League.
Deepak Mondal, United S.C- 34
Recipient of the Arjuna Award in 2010, thirty four year old Deepak Mondal remains one of the most competent and competitive defenders in the I-League. Born in Noamundi, Jharkhand, Deepak polished his skills at the Tata Football Academy and then went on to play for East Bengal for 5 seasons. A reliable defender, Deepak quickly gained prominence after a string of solid performances for the red and gold brigade and was judged as the AIFF Player of the Year in 2002. He subsequently made his international debut in 2001 while shifting to Mahindra United for a season. But he soon returned to Kolkata, only to sign for his erstwhile rivals-Mohun Bagan.
Considered to be one of the best defenders India has ever produced, 34 year old Deepak Mondal refuses to grow old. Having won almost every trophy during his illustrious career, the player refuses to hang up his boots. Though he has been sidelined from time to time due to injuries, the defender remains one of the most contributing members of United S.C. Having played in almost every defensive position, Deepak favours to play from the right flank, effectively controlling the game with his brilliant passing and fantastic vision.
Deepak Mondal has rightly stepped up for United S.C when the team needed him the most. Suffering from a dismal financial crisis, Deepak and the other senior members have organized the team together and have ensured that the club does not lose out in the I League due to sponsorship issues. Despite a short pre-season training this year, he has led from the front and has been instrumental in organizing the team’s defence. His defensive abilities as well as his ability to read the game remain undiminished as he looks strong to continue for another couple of years.
Sandip Nandy, Mohun Bagan-38
38 year old Sandip has returned to Mohun Bagan after winning the I-League with Churchill Brothers after a stellar season under the bar. Refusing to let time have its effect on him, Sandip Nandy has only moved from strength to strength and is looking to turn over a new chapter in his professional career. Born in Burdawan, Sandip started his career with Mohun Bagan in 1999 and has come a full circle after having played for an array of clubs. But is he closer to hanging up his boots than he was before? Probably not. The goal-keeper continues to defy his critics and is expected to lead Mohun Bagan from the back.
Having played a crucial role in Churchill Brother’s league victory last year, he decided to return home to Kolkata and is expected to salvage Mohun Bagan which has been going through a crisis situation. His arrival is therefore even more important as the team will be relying heavily on his able shoulders and look to him for strength and support when the going gets tough.
Though approaching his forties, Sandip Nandy has shown that he has what it takes to play at the highest level in Indian Football. Saving a penalty against Bengaluru FC and then keeping a clean sheet against Churchill Brothers, Sandip is proving himself deserving of the faith bestowed on him by the club management and fans alike. With his reflexes as sharp as ever, Sandip Nandy is on his way to becoming one of India’s living football legends.
Clifford Miranda, Dempo S.C-31
Making his debut for Dempo in 2000, Clifford Miranda is in his 14th year at the club and is still raring to go. One of the best left midfielder in the country, the Dempo skipper has come a long way from where he started. He has achieved much but clearly believes that he still has a lot to give to his club and his chosen sport. He has won the I-League five times with the Goan giants and has also won the Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy and other honours in Indian Football. He has found a place for himself in the national team and has achieved major honours such as the SAFF Championship and Nehru Cup and is looked upon as a dependable midfielder with the potential to change the game in a matter of seconds.
Popular for his pin-point passing and set-piece deliveries, the winger often cuts in from the left and links up with the strikers and midfielders to add more teeth to the team’s attack. Though he has hit his thirties, Miranda remains a valuable asset to the Goan side. One of the most experienced players in the country, Arthur Pappas will be depending heavily on the Goan to lead the team to success this season. Though Dempo have had a troubled start to the I League this year, it is Miranda who provided the team with some much needed respite. He has linked up well with Jeje up front and even provided an assist against Mumbai F.C. He is as effective on the flanks as before and it will be interesting to see how Arthur Pappas utilizes him to turn Dempo’s fortune around.
Peter Carvalho, Dempo S.C-33
Born in 1980, Peter Carvalho will turn 33 in two months but is showing no signs of slowing down. Instead he has only got better with age, like a bottle of good wine. One of the most consistent players for Dempo since 2004, the midfielder has earned his place in the Goan side and fulfilled his duties with unparalleled passion and enthusiasm. Often asked to play in a variety of different roles, Peter is the player the manager turns to when he needs a job done. He often covered up at the back for Dempo in the past couple of seasons and is known for his work ethics. Though he has earned several accolades while playing for Dempo, he remains ever hungry for greater success.
Popular for his accurate passing and intelligent movement off the ball, his ability to dictate the pace of the game makes him a very instrumental player in the midfield. A vital contributor to the team’s defence, Peter has the ability to charge at the opposition with the ball facilitating crucial counter-attacks.
He continues to work hard on the pitch, closing down on the opposition and moving the ball fast during moments of possession. Though in his early thirties, the player has proved himself to be capable of leading the team from midfield and his ability to control the game remains undiminished. One of the most experienced players in the Goan side, Arthur Pappas will be depending heavily on the midfielder as Dempo makes an awful start to their I League campaign.
It will be interesting to see how these players perform this season and how their managers utilize their vast experience and some-what diminishing prowess. Having reached the summit of their abilities and football career, the journey back down is not always a very pleasant experience.