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  • Writer's pictureRitwik Khanna

Remembering Carlton Chapman

Former Indian captain Carlton Chapman passed away on 12th October following a heart attack. Chapman was an integral part of the Indian national team of the late 90s that included Bhaichung Bhutia, Jo Paul Ancheri, and IM Vijayan amongst others and brought considerable success to Indian football. A graduate of the Tata Football Academy, Chapman won every major domestic club title with JCT Mills and East Bengal. He was also a great coach working with 2nd division sides and spreading his experience with younger emerging players.

A smart attacking midfielder, Chapman’s career defining individual performance came in the 1993 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup with East Bengal. A 22-year-old newly signed rookie, he inspired the team to a 6-2 win, scoring a hattrick against much fancied Al Zawra’a in the first round of the tournament. Chapman moved to JCT in 1995 winning the inaugural season of the National Football League in 1996-97. The team, under the guidance of coach Sukhwinder Singh, dominated the domestic circuit for two years. Their subsequent decline coincided with Carlton’s move away to first FC Kochin for one season and then back to East Bengal in 1998. Back in Kolkata, he played an instrumental role in guiding young talents like Renedy Singh, Deepak Mondal and of course Bhaichung Bhutia.

Chapman was the captain of the national side at a crucial time in Indian football. The start of the NFL had increased the sport’s appeal to both fans and investors alike. Emerging talents heralded a bright future for the national side. He led the team in the 1997 SAFF Championship when the team recaptured the trophy in style beating Maldives 5-1 in the final. He made 39 appearances in the Indian jersey, scoring six goals.

After retiring as a player, Chapman returned to Tata Football Academy as a coach. He worked with the 2nd division team in varying roles until 2008 when he resigned after the team was not allowed to play the first division despite qualifying. He then coached Rangers FC in New Delhi and Royal Wahingdoh in Shillong before returning to Kolkata as the manager of 2nd division side Bhawanipore FC. He further had coaching roles at Students Union in Bangalore and Sudeva in Delhi and was the technical director of Quartz FC at the time of his death.

Off the field, Chapman was a beloved character. Endearingly called ‘Chap’, he had a natural charisma and always had a smile on his face. “I once received a bad injury and I was stretchered off the field. Later on, I was admitted to a hospital for some time as they treated me. One man who used to come and visit me every day was Carlton. He was a very good friend,” said former teammate Bruno Coutinho. Eulogies have been pouring in for one of Indian football’s brightest stars all day which just shows how much he meant to those close to him.

Chapman was one of the key players in the second coming of Indian football in the 90s and the footballing fraternity will always be indebted to him for the joy he spread both on and off the field. Rest in Peace, Chap.

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