Shankarlal Chakraborti: Picking up the pieces!

In 1996, Shankarlal Chakraborti was one of the most promising names in Indian football. However, on August 2, 1997, in a Bengal derby, played in front of packed stands, Chakraborti’s career came to an end due to a horrific tackle by Chima Okorie. He did manage to come back after almost two years and even played a decisive role in one of the Bengal derbies, but was again out injured. Now he is the assistant coach of Mohun Bagan, still associated with the game and going forward, he feels the focus should be on youth development.

Shankarlal Chakraborti... shrugging off misfortune.   -  By Special Arrangement

Shankarlal Chakraborti — the name might not ring a bell for even the maddest of Indian football fans. However, if you turn the clock back to 1996, Chakraborti was one of the most promising names in Indian football and his talent had made sure that everyone’s eyes were set on him.

He graduated from the Tata Football Academy that year, along with the likes of Renedy Singh and Kalyan Choubey. He was also the captain of the Indian junior team and had also made it to the senior Indian team. However, fate had something else in store for him. On August 2, 1997, in a Bengal derby, played in front of packed stands, Chakraborti’s career came to an end due to a horrific tackle by Chima Okorie. A young Chakraborti — who was playing his first season for East Bengal — broke his shin bone and was stretchered off.

“It’s an old incident, I try to forget about it, but people keep reminding me about it. I know there was a lot of hope from me, being a graduate from the Tata Football Academy. It was a big loss to my career so it still saddens me a bit, I also look back at it with regret that I couldn’t give more service to my club and country,” says Chakraborti, when asked about that fateful day.

He did manage to come back after almost two years and even played a decisive role in one of the Bengal derbies, but was again out injured. “I felt good to play after such an injury, they weren’t many physical trainers or physiotherapists back then. I trained individually and did all the gym work myself — there wasn’t much guidance on what exercises or drills to do. I still had pain in my leg, but despite that I played,” he says.

Now he is the assistant coach of Mohun Bagan, still associated with the game and going forward, he feels the focus should be on youth development. “The U-17 World Cup is coming and because of that so much good work is happening at the U-14, U-12 levels. We need to continue with that even after the World Cup. Youth is our biggest strength and we have to look after them.”

Talking about Indian football, Chakraborti remains optimistic and says that organisation can be a problem in a big country like India. "Every state doesn’t play football, we should encourage football in states where it is already present and by encourage I mean invest more money, have more licensed coaches and slowly things will happen. In 2026, we will have 48 teams in the World Cup which means more teams from Asia will play so that can be a good opportunity for us.”

Chakraborti also supported the merger of I-league and ISL, saying it can only be good for the country to have one league. “Both the leagues have the problem of having matches every three days. From what I know, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will enter the league and it will help us get more sponsors, both teams will also get crowds to games, which is good for Indian football.”

Commenting on Dempo and Sporting Club De Goa’s pull out from the I-league, Chakraborti said it was disappointing that clubs which had done so much for Indian football and given so many great players to India had to take a step like this, but, at the same time, the fact that they didn’t do much for community development or for their own fans was saddening.