Chima Okorie talks about his Mohun Bagan days2-Jun, 2012
Chima Okorie was the first foreigner to be recruited by Mohun Bagan. The club changed its century old tradition of not recruiting foreigners when Chima Okorie signed in favour of the National Club of India in 1991. He played for the Mariners till 1992 before trying his luck as a professional footballer abroad. After playing in England, Norway and Denmark, he returned to Mohun Bagan in 1997 and helped the club win their first National Football League title.
After retiring from football in 2000, he did the FA B-licence coaching course and became the coach of Mohun Bagan in 2007, though it ended after few months mainly because of "non co-operation of a few senior players of Mohun Bagan", as Chima said. Chima's relationship with Mohun Bagan continued as he helped Mohun Bagan in the recruitment of the star striker Odafa Okolie, as an agent.
Chima right now is concentrating on his Hridaya Family's football coaching center at Deshapriya Park where he is training young boys and hoping that some of them will rule Indian football in the future.
We had a chat with Chima Okorie who shared with us his experience of playing for Mohun Bagan etc.
MMB: Your relationship with Mohun Bagan seems to be never-ending.
Chima: (laughing) Yes, player, coach, agent, it continues.
MMB: Are you a professional agent?
Chima: No, I am not exactly a professional agent. As an agent, I have just helped Mohun Bagan in recruiting Odafa Okolie.
MMB: What about the new recruit Stanley Okoroigwe?
Chima: No, I am not his agent. Stanley has played under me in New Delhi Heroes, so I know him very well. I have referred him to Mohun Bagan, but not as a professional agent.
MMB: You made several good comments about Stanley in your facebook status.
Chima: Yes, he is an extremely good player. I have used him in central defence, defensive medio, attacking medio and even as a striker. He has excelled in every position. He is an asset for any team. I rate him as a player of high caliber. He can play in any position. He is literally an all rounder and can lead the team from the front.
MMB: What about Anyichie Echezona? How do you rate him as a player?
Chima: He is also a very good player. He is a very passionate player and it is not easy for the strikers to get past him in defence. I think both these recruits will help Mohun Bagan to perform well in the coming season.
MMB: Say something about your childhood.
Chima: Nigeria is a nation where children play only football. There are footballers in almost every family. I was born in Izomber in Nigeria. I started playing football since my childhood.
MMB: When did you come to India?
Chima: I came to India as a student. I was studying in Visakhapatnam. I used to play football to pass time in the evenings and used to score a lot of goals. After seeing my performance in those matches, my sports teacher persuaded me to play for the University and later on I got an offer to play for Mohammedan Sporting in 1985.
MMB: Do you have any footballer in your family?
Chima: Yes, 2 of my brothers played in India, Kalechi and Louis.
MMB: When did you join Mohun Bagan?
Chima: After playing for Mohammedan Sporting and East Bengal, I joined Mohun Bagan in 1991 and initially played for 2 years before coming back again in 1997, when I played for 2-1/2 years before leaving Mohun Bagan in mid 1999.
MMB: You are the first foreigner to have played for Mohun Bagan.
Chima: Yes, it happened because of Mr. Tutu Bose. It was because of him that I played for Mohun Bagan. Before that, Mohun Bagan recruited only Indian players. They changed the rule and I can proudly say that I am the first foreign player to have played for Mohun Bagan.
MMB: Which are the tournaments that you won wearing the green and maroon jersey?
Chima: There are many tournaments that we won. In 1991, we won the Rovers Cup, Sikkim Governor's Gold Cup, and All Airlines Gold Cup. The next year, we lifted the coveted Federation Cup, Rovers Cup, Sikkim Governor's Gold Cup, and Calcutta Football League.
Mohun Bagan won the Rovers Cup defeating Mohammedan Sporting by 1-0 and JCT by 2-0 in 1991 and 1992 respectively.
We defeated Mohammedan Sporting and Mukti Yodha, Bangladesh in 1991 and 1992 to lift the Sikkim Governor's Gold Cup.
The 1991 All Airlines Gold cup victory came as a result of 2-0 win against TFA.
When I rejoined Mohun Bagan in 1997, we won the National Football League and also Calcutta Football league. Next year, we lifted the Federation Cup and IFA Shield.
In 1998, we won both Federation Cup and IFA Shield by defeating East Bengal, both the matches we won by an identical margin of 2-1. I scored one of the goals in the IFA Shield final.
MMB: In between, where did you play in Europe?
Chima: I played in 3 different European countries, Grimsby Town FC in England, Ikast FS in Denmark and Sogndal FC in Norway.
MMB: How was the experience of winning the National Football League for Mohun Bagan?
Chima: It was indeed a great experience. I scored 9 goals including 1 hattrick in that National Football League. I was the 2nd highest scorer, 1 goal behind Raman Vijayan of FC Kochin. I won the Man of the Match awards for the maximum number of times in that league - on as many as 4 occasions. I was also declared as the Man of the Tournament.
In the 1st leg, we defeated East Bengal 2-1 with myself and Dipendu scoring for Mohun Bagan. The return leg match against East Bengal ended in a goalless draw.
I scored a hattrick against Mahindra, we won the match 3-0.
MMB: You helped Mohun Bagan to win the Federation Cup twice.
Chima: Mohun Bagan won the Federation Cup twice in 1992 and 1998, on both the occasions we defeated East Bengal in the finals. In 1992, we completely dominated the final and won 2-0. I scored the 2nd goal in the final mach.
Coming to the 1998 Federation Cup, we started with a win against FC Cochin in the pre-quarter final. We won the match 2-0 and I scored both the goals. Sammy Omollo's goal helped us reach the semi final as we beat SBT 1-0.
In the semi final, we got past Mohammedan Sporting 2-1. Myself and I M Vijayan were the scorers. We lifted the trophy by beating East Bengal 2-1, Amit Das and I M Vijayan scored the goals for Mohun Bagan.
MMB: Which is your memorable matches wearing the green and maroon jersey?
Chima: It is impossible to select 1 match. The Federation Cup final in the year 1992 where we defeated East Bengal 2-0 definitely will remain as one of my best matches. Such was our domination in that match that we could have easily won by a few more goals. Mohun Bagan played outstanding football in that match.
Then in 1997 Federation Cup quarter final, Mohun Bagan thrashed Churchill Brothers 6-0. I scored 4 goals in that match. In the semi final, though we played very good football, we lost to East Bengal 1-4. I scored the only goal of that match for Mohun Bagan. We conceded 2 goals in the last few minutes of the match when we went all out to score the equalizing goal.
Amal Dutta's Diamond system made news that year as Mohun Bagan played outstanding football in 1997. Later during the year, Chattuni became Mohun Bagan's coach and we won the National Football League
MMB: You were the highest scorer in the Calcutta Football League for a record 7 times.
Chima: Yes, I was the top scorer 7 times out of the 12 seasons that I played in Calcutta Football League for the leading 3 clubs of Kolkata, out of which I was the highest scorer in 4 out of the 5 seasons that I played in Mohun Bagan. I got success in all the 3 clubs.
While playing in East Bengal, I was the highest scorer of CFL in 1987, 1989 and 1990 scoring 26, 17 and 9 goals respectively. Wearing the green and maroon jersey, I scored 11, 15, 13 and 12 goals respectively for Mohun Bagan in the years 1991, 1992, 1998 and 1999 to become the highest scorer.
MMB: Which season would you say was the best in Mohun Bagan?
Chima: 1992 and 1997.
MMB: Who would you say was your best striking partner in Mohun Bagan?
Chima: Very difficult to chose. I had many good striking partners in Mohun Bagan like I M Vijayan, Sisir Ghosh, Dipendu Biswas.
MMB: Your overall best striking partner?
Chima: Kuljit Singh.
MMB: Did you play as a striker throughout your life?
Chima: I mostly played as a striker, though in 1991, I remember, I was asked to operate from a little deep in few matches.
MMB: Which defender caused you the maximum problem while playing for Mohun Bagan?
Chima: See, the defenders were doing their job and my job was to score goals. You can say, Manoranjan Bhattacharya sometimes caused problems for me.
MMB: From whose pass did you score the maximum number of goals for Mohun Bagan?
Chima: There were many good midfielders in Mohun Bagan like Sudip Chatterjee, Satyajit Chatterjee, but I would say I was most comfortable playing with Krishanu Dey.
MMB: Who are the best foreigners to have ever played in Indian football?
Chima: Odafa Okolie, Majid Baskar and Jose Barreto.
MMB: Talking about Jose Barreto, after he was felicitated in his last match for Mohun Bagan, you wrote something about that incident in facebook. Were you unhappy?
Chima: No, I am extremely happy that Jose Barreto has been honoured. He deserves all this. All I wanted to say is that other than Jose Barreto, there are many players who should have also been honoured for their great performance in Mohun Bagan.
MMB: Who is your favourite goalkeeper?
Chima: Atanu Bhattacharya.
MMB: Who is your favourite coach?
MMB: Favourite tournament win in Mohun Bagan?
Chima: 1997 National Football League.
MMB: Out of the players with whom you have played, choose your best XI.
Chima: Atanu Bhattacharya will be the goalkeeper.
Debasish Hazra and Alok Mukherjee will be the 2 side backs. Subrata Bhattacharya and Manoranjan Bhattacharya will be the automatic choice in central defence.
The midfielders will be Bikash Panji, Debasish Sarkar, Tushar Rakshit and Uttam Mukherjee.
The 2 strikers will be Krishanu Dey and Kuljit Singh.
MMB: When did you start coaching?
Chima: I pursued an English FA B-licence coaching course. Then I joined Bengal Mumbai in 2006. The very next year, I became the coach of Mohun Bagan.
MMB: How was your experience as a coach in Mohun Bagan?
Chima: See, I always prefer to try out young players. My experience as a coach was not very good in Mohun Bagan. As a player, I helped Mohun Bagan win many trophies, but my coaching career in this club ended after a few months mainly because of non co-operation of a few senior players. I fielded a lot of junior players like Shilton Pal, Sankar Oraon, Lalampuia, Tulunga, and if the senior players failed to perform to their potential, I used to replace them or not keep them in the starting XI, due to which they started creating problem in the team.
I then became the coach of New Delhi Heroes. Many players from the team later played in National Football League. Stanley, Mohun Bagan's new recruit, played in New Delhi Heroes that year.
MMB: Which foreign player's performance would you say was the best last year?
Chima: Odafa Okolie, Ranty Martins and Beto. Both Ranty and Odafa are prolific goal scorers but their style of play is different. Ranty is basically a box player whereas Odafa can be termed as a 1-man army who can bulldoze past defenders. Odafa also can easily dribble past many players, he is very skilful. Beto is also a very good midfielder.
MMB: Would you say Odafa is somewhat similar to you?
Chima: Yes, you can say that.
MMB: You helped Mohun Bagan to rope in Odafa Okolie from Churchill Brothers.
Chima: Yes, though football agent is not my profession, I helped Mohun Bagan to recruit Odafa Okolie as an agent. It was an extremely tough job, but you know Odafa was also interested to play in Kolkata.
MMB: What do you have to say about the impact of Nigerian footballers in Indian football?
Chima: As I told you, in Nigeria there are footballers almost in every home. You can find Nigerians in almost all major leagues throughout the World. The Nigerians who are playing in India might not be the best back home but they have definitely contributed to football, here in India.
MMB: Why do you think Goan teams are performing better than teams from Kolkata?
Chima: Dempo especially has got success because they have more or less kept the same team intact for many years. Continuity is a key factor in football. They have also not changed their coach. Playing as a set team has helped Dempo lift the I-League so many times.
MMB: We've noticed that most of the times during coaching, you come to the ground bare footed. Why?
Chima: (laughing) Yes, I really love the feel of the grass in the ground. I don't think whether I am wearing a boot or I am bare footed, does make much of a difference when I am coaching.
MMB: Which is your favourite teams in World Football?
Chima: Barcelona, Arsenal and Spain.
MMB: Who are your favourite footballers?
Chima: Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.
MMB: Say something about the Hridaya Family's football coaching center.
Chima: Right now, I am extremely busy with this coaching center where I am trying my level best to coach young boys and see that if some of them can become good footballers in the future. If these young kids can receive proper guidance, India could have many good footballers in the future. I think there are a lot of talented kids who play great football, but because their potential is not nurtured properly at the right age, they fail to develop into good footballers.
MMB: Best of luck for your future Chima. It was nice talking to you.
Chima: Thanks a lot.
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