Chathunni, former India international footballer & mentor of Kerala Police team, no more

Hailing from Chalakudy, Chathunni died at a private hospital in Kochi on Wednesday after a brief fight with cancer. He was 79.
Former India international footballers, including I M Vijayan, T K Chathunni, U Sharaf Ali, C C Jacob, M M Jacob, K T Chacko, N P Pradeep, K P Sethumadhavan and M A Abdul Hakkim take a stroll at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode.
Former India international footballers, including I M Vijayan, T K Chathunni, U Sharaf Ali, C C Jacob, M M Jacob, K T Chacko, N P Pradeep, K P Sethumadhavan and M A Abdul Hakkim take a stroll at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode.Photo | Express

KOCHI : In 1990, when famous clubs like Mohun Bagan, Salgaokar Goa, Dempo and East Bengal ruled the Indian football arena, the Kerala Police sprang a surprise upsetting the Salgaokar team, that arrived in Thrissur fancying to win the third consecutive Federation Cup.

The Kerala police, who received brickbats from the public in a politically sensitive state, were greeted with cheers as C V Pappachan scored twice during the final match. The team trounced Goa Salgaokar by 2-1 and this inspired a passion for football in Kerala.

Former footballer T K Chathunni was the man behind the team’s historic victory over Goa Salgaokar in 1990. A top-rated defender during the 1960s and 1970s, Chathunni had played for India in the 1973 Merdeka Tournament in Kuala Lumpur. He was a member of the India squad for six international matches and also played for clubs like EME Centre (Secundrabad), Vasco Club (Goa) and Orkay Mills (Mumbai). Chathunni also played for Services in the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy.

Hailing from Chalakudy, Chathunni died at a private hospital in Kochi on Wednesday after a brief fight with cancer. He was 79.

During his career as a football coach, Chathunni nurtured legends like I M Vijayan, Joe Paul Ancheri, C V Pappachan and V P Sathyan. He also helped Mohun Bagan win their maiden national league title in 1997-98. “It was DGP M K Joseph who proposed to form a football team for Kerala Police in 1985. Chathunni joined as coach of the team in 1990 just a few months ahead of the Federation Cup Tournament. But he inspired a rare bond between the players which helped us win the tournament,” reminisced Kurukesh Mathew, who led the Kerala Police team in the Federation Cup tournament.

“He had a unique style of developing coordination between the players. It was a dream team. We had I M Vijayan, C V Pappachan, P P Thobias, Sharaf Ali, V P Sathyan and K T Chacko in the team. Chathunni sir was strict during the coaching session but was very friendly off the field,” he said.

“Chathunni sir was my mentor. He had the skill to identify talent and develop it through strenuous coaching, He had the ability to inspire the players to give their maximum effort. It was physical fitness and teaching chemistry that helped the Kerala Police win the Federation Cup and Chathunni sir played a key role in creating this coordination,” said I M Vijayan.

“I met Chathunni sir when I was a Class IX student around 45 years ago. I met him at a football selection camp and since then, he has been my inspiration. I attended a football coaching camp led by him while studying at the Kerala Varma College. He joined as coach of the Kerala Police team just two months ahead of the Federation Cup. He instilled confidence in the team members which helped us work as a team and play in coordination,” said C V Pappachan.

“I had the privilege of getting coached under Chathunni sir during my college days in 1988-89. He knew how to identify talent and mould a player. Though he was a strict instructor on the field, Chathunni sir had a good rapport with all players. He used to invite players to his house and serve food. This rare friendship helped him to get the maximum from the players,” said Joe Paul Ancheri.

Expressing condolence over his demise, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Chathunni played a prominent role in the sports arena of the state through an active career as player and later as coach for about four decades. Opposition leader V D Satheeshan said that his demise was a loss to the sports field. Union Minister of State Suresh Gopi and Revenue Minister K Rajan also expressed their grief.

The mortal remains will be kept for public homage at Thrissur Indoor Stadium from 10 am to 11 am on Thursday. The cremation will be held at Vadookkara crematorium in Thrissur at 11.30 am on Thursday.

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