Carlton Chapman was perhaps among those who saw the last run of the golden period of football in the State. This talented player hopes to bring the game back
Carlton Chapman is among the few elite footballers from Bangalore, who went onto lead the Indian national team. The late Olympian Shanmugham, Babu Mani and S. Venkatesh are the other names that come readily to mind, though a host of others had donned India colours with distinction during an era when Karnataka, or to be more precise Bangalore, was a powerhouse of talent.
Sadly today there is no player, who can be assured of a place in the Indian list, nor a State team that figures in the elite I-League.
Now 40, Carlton made waves both as a player and then coached the Under-17 National side to the best ever finish - fifth at the Under 17 World Cup – an event that Bangalore will host as one of the six centres in 2017.
Carlton, who recently took the Special Olympics Bharath football team to Thailand wherein the team finished a creditable fourth after beating sides like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, talked at length about the various aspects that could put both Karnataka and Indian football back on track. Carlton, along with I.M. Vijayan, Baichung Bhutia, Joe Paul Ancheri and a couple of others, formed the nucleus of the Indian team of the mid 1990’s.
“We won everything that was to be won from 1993 to 1995, when I was with East Bengal and with Jagjit Cotton Mills (JCT), Phagwara in my two years including the inaugural edition of the I-League way back in 1996-97. I switched allegiance to FC Kochi for a year and was instrumental in getting them into the elite league before returning to wear the gold and yellow colours of the famed East Bengal during 1998 and 2001. I quit my playing career after guiding the team to I-League Trophy,” said the ‘B’ License coaching certificate holder from AFC.
Carlton had a six-year coaching stint with Tata Football Academy (TFA) from 2002-08, the Academy that he played for soon after representing Karnataka in the Santosh trophy.
“I went onto play for Bengal and even Punjab in the Santosh Trophy, which I played till 1999,” said Carlton with pride. “TFA was a big challenge and a wonderful period of my coaching career but I had to leave the Academy when the management decided not to field the team in the I-League. That too after we had done splendidly to top the Second Division and qualify,” said Carlton, with a touch of disappointment. “I still have an offer to go back to TFA but am yet to make up my mind,” said this coach who guided the Royal Wahingdoh FC in Shillong to the Shillong Premier League title in the last three years and the Bardoloi Trophy title in 2011.
An attacking midfielder himself, known for his bursts of speed – with nearly 80 odd goals scored - Carlton fancies the play of Andres Iniesta, the mercurial Spanish midfielder. “I like the way he darts on his runs,” says Carlton, who could contribute a great deal to the State and country’s footballing fortunes. “I played under many foreign and India coaches, Akramov was the one who introduced the I-League into our federation and he had some real good interest at heart. Also, Bob Houghton the Englishman who taught us some old English type soccer with good results and our own Syed Naeemuddin. The present coach too has some very interesting inputs for Indian football and the mushrooming of the academies all over should augur well for the future,” says Carlton.
With optimism ringing in his heart, Carlton said: “The goal project that has been developed and taken shape in Kolkata, Mumbai and Goa and its time the one at Bangalore too gets underway. Once that happens, the football scenario should look up in the city. Also the hosting of the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 should provide the right impetus for the game.”