Defender Nirmal Chettri has had a long journey from Sikkim to the Kolkata Maidans and this summer he makes the switch from East Bengal Club to Mohun Bagan AC. A big transfer in Kolkata and also for Nirmal, but with Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey also leaving the Red & Gold to join the Green & Maroon and that under controversial circumstances for Nirmal it has been a rather quite move.
Last season you finally made it into the senior Indian national team. We now have a new coach in Wim Koevermans. What’s your aim with Team India – just retain your place in the squad, or regularly play in the first eleven?
After spending four years in the India probables list, getting selected for India is the day I’ll never forget. My dream came true playing for India and it was all I used to dream about in my childhood.
I think it’s hard to move on from the loss of the old coach, and then to work with the new coach. You’ve got to do everything possible. My first aim is to be in the squad and then later to retain my regular place in the playing eleven.
I’m looking forward to work with our new coach Wim Koevermans and I would like to be part in every tournament India plays at international level.
After four years at East Bengal you are making the transfer to archrivals Mohun Bagan AC. Many red and gold fans are questioning the transfer. Are you feeling any added pressure ahead of the new season?
I think I got everything from the Red & Gold jersey. I am very grateful to some of the seniors players like Alvito and Uga who have been an inspiration to me. I thank the coaching staff and the team management for the support they gave me.
Switching over to Mohun Bagan was like a dream of playing for two big clubs in India coming true for me. I just waited for the chance to play for them. I got offers from them in two consecutive seasons but being contracted to East Bengal, I couldn’t have held talks but now I’m officially a Sabuj-Maroon.
I depart as a friend and hope the supporters of East Bengal will always remember me for my hard work and my loyal service to club for the last four years.
I know that there will be little extra pressure for me, but I’ll keep my head and soul calm. They signed me because I have proved myself at every level. So I’m ready to deliver good results for my new club.
United Sikkim will be making its debut in the I-League next season. How do feel about the clubs progress as a Sikkimese?
I am very happy for my idol Baichung Bhutia! It was not only his dream but also mine to see a team from Sikkim amongst the elite in the I-League. It was a dream come true for the people of Sikkim. Now they’ll get the chance to see the best teams from across India.
I hope United Sikkim FC will be like Shillong Lajong FC of Indian football, and I’m waiting to play against them in Gangtok.
I hope they’ll come above the expectations of the people and remain in the I-League for a long time.
You are trying to do something for youth development in Sikkim. Please tell us more about it?
Last year I focused on the grass root level in villages. This year almost 50 local children in the age group of 9 – 20 years joined in the three days Summer Football Awareness Training Camp in my hometown (Melli). I’m doing it for free of cost and its specially for the kids to raise awareness regarding injuries on the field. I’m just sharing with them through my own experience.
For me it’s an amazing feeling to work with them for a short period.
And they are gradually becoming better as per their graphs compared to last year.
Published with permission from Arunava about Football.