IM Vijayan (left) and Carlton Chapman | Photo: K.B Satheesh Kumar, N.M Pradeep
Kolkata: "Carlton Chapman was like a younger brother to me. We were practically family," says his former teammate IM Vijayan, who had played with the former midfielder for both club (JCT) and India.
Amidst India's first sporting tournament post the Covid-19 lockdown -- I-League Qualifiers 2020, the nation awoke to a tragic piece of news on Monday as Chapman, former Indian national team captain, had passed away. He was 49.
"This is not an easy loss to take," Vijayan told the-aiff.com. "He was a really nice person, both on and off the pitch. Generally, things do get heated at times when you are on the pitch as a footballer, but I do not remember him ever getting angry at anyone."
Bruno Coutinho, under whose captaincy Chapman had donned the blue jersey for the national team, felt that Indian football has not only lost one of its great former players, but also a quality coach.
"I was shocked to hear such sad news early in the morning when I got a message of his passing away from a mutual friend. This is indeed a great loss for us all. He had been coaching for a long time after he was done with his playing career, and was bringing through some talented players," said Coutinho.
The former India captain went on to describe Chapman as a dear friend, one who always played the game with a "wide smile on his face".
"As a player, he was always happy-go-lucky, but he also worked hard whenever he was on the pitch. But, he always had a smile on his face," he continued.
Former India striker Dipendu Biswas, who was a cadet with Chapman at the Tata Football Academy back, revealed how the midfielder had guided him in their earlier years.
"Carlton-da was such a nice person. He was a year or two senior to us but he used to take care of us and guide us in various matters. I remember he would even take us out for dinner on the weekends, back when we were at the Academy," said Biswas.
Under Chapman's captaincy, the Indian team went on to win the SAFF Championship trophy in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1997. He scored six goals for the Indian team in thirty-nine matches, including five matches when he led the side. He was part of the triumphant India side which won the SAF Games (1995) in Madras, Nehru Cup (1997) in Kochi and SAFF Championship (1999) in Margao.
"We mourn the loss of former India skipper and East Bengal player, Carlton Chapman. Our thoughts and prayers with his loved ones. RIP," tweeted Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Kolkata Knight Riders while condoling Chapman's demise.
"Our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of former Indian football captain, and great, Carlton Chapman. Rest in peace, legend," said Kerala Blasters on Twitter.
"The BFC family is sad to learn about the passing away of former India captain and one of Karnataka's finest footballers, Carlton Chapman. In his memory, the Blues held a minute of silence ahead of their training session earlier today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," said Bengaluru FC on the micro-blogging website.
Chapman also had two successful spells with East Bengal and one with now-defunct JCT Mills at the club level. Chapman, who joined East Bengal in 1993, is best remembered for his four goals in the team's 6-2 win over Iraq side Al Zawra in the Asian Cup Winners Cup.
He returned to East Bengal in 1998 and helped the red and gold brigade win their maiden National Football League (NFL) title in 2001. He called time on his illustrious career in 2001.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing away of Carlton Chapman. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Shree Cement Managing Director H.M. Bangur said.
Chapman's coaching career started at the Tata Football Academy in 2002 after his retirement. Later, he coached Royal Wahingdoh, Bhawanipore FC, Student's Union FC, Sudeva FC. Recently, he was appointed as the Technical Director of Quartz FC, a club based in Kozhikode.