He received the award for the Most Outstanding Wide Receiver in the first season of the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) and was a key part of the Bangalore Warhawks’ impressive showing that culminated in a semi-final run. His pace and his receiving quite literally ripped open opposition defenses making Bangalore’ s high octane offense a major threat to deal with.
Navaneeth “Chamber” Shanta is a very outgoing Bangalore boy who loves his sport. His first love he says will always be football (soccer), but he did have a splendid time playing the American variant of the same name in the month and a half long campaign in Colombo.
A hardcore Manchester United fan, and a professional stunter, “Chamber” as he is popularly known took some time out to tell us about his experience of playing American football.
How did your tryst with the Bangalore Warhawks begin?
I was playing football at a tournament in Garden City College. I was actually playing for an Iranian team there since it was an open tournament.So, the scouts had come there to ask people to come for orientation. And I was approached to play football. I actually didn’t know that it was American football. So, I signed up and only later I found that it was American football. But, I was still enthusiastic about playing this new game.
Was there anyone else who you knew that also turned up for the orientation?
Yes, I had two friends who also came over after the scouts had approached them. But once they found out that it was American football and talked about how players get injured all the time in this game and they backed out. Told me as well that I would get hit badly and stuff like that, and told me to back out. But I was pretty keen, and I wanted to play. I had heard a lot about this game and had watched little bit online, and there’s always the excitement of playing a new game.
And how did it go from there?
So yes, I decided to go for the selections, I got selected. The first camp was held in Pune for all those who were selected. Then we went to Kolkata for another camp and finally we went to Delhi for a month.
Then from Delhi we just made a short stopover at Bangalore before leaving for Sri Lanka for the tournament.
You play Wide Receiver. Tell us a little bit about that position and also the award you got for being the Most Outstanding Wide Receiver.
Yeah! So basically, I’m the guy that the Quarter Back generally looks for when our team is looking to advance the ball by passing/throwing. So every team has two Wide Receivers, one on the right and one on the left. Cinto and me used to play Wide Receiver.
So our Quarter Back will either throw it to us or lay the ball off to Lobo, who was the Running Back, in order to advance the ball. That’s how the offense works in general with most teams. Of course, sometimes the Quarter Back himself can run with the ball.
And yes, I was very happy to receive the award for Most Outstanding Wide Receiver. I was happy I was able to adjust to the demands of the game maybe faster than certain other people and my footballing background also helped.
Did you ever play any other position apart from Wide Receiver?
In the first exhibition game that we played against Hyderabad after the first season, basically last year, I played Quarter Back. I played pretty well, I managed to effect a touchdown through Cinto and had zero turnovers in that game. Unfortunately we lost that game, after Hyderabad made a comeback, but I enjoyed that game a lot.
Who was the one player that impressed you the most?
In general, we had a great offense. Myself, Lobo (Roshan), Dilip and Cintowere really good, but then in the first Pune camp, we had this guy called Ricky. He was a Running Back and he was just amazing. He was a former footballer, having played for ONGC in the I-league. He used to play right-back and he was just so quick and nobody could touch him. He was a lot like DaniAlves, not very big, but really fast.
I was really impressed by him. Eventually, he couldn’t make it to the tournament because he took up a job which came along with the IT department. In fact, I think one of the main reasons for us not winning the title in the first season was the absence of a second Running Back in the team like him.
In fact, the first camp I actually played Quarter Back. But my coach thought of using my reach and agility from playing as a goalkeeper to better effect and played me as a Wide Receiver. Also, by that time, other receivers had come by such as Cinto and Dilip.
How was the experience of playing the first season of EFLI?
It was really good, I enjoyed it a lot. The one-and-a-half months that we spent in Sri Lanka were really fun, had a great time.
And as a team, we played really well. We had the best record in the league, we lost only one game, which was to the Pune Marathas. Apart from that, we managed to beat most of the teams quite comfortably.
In fact, when it started a lot of people didn’t expect much from Bangalore, but we managed to show everyone how good we were.
It was a tough loss when we lost to Delhi in the semis. Actually, that was the game that got cancelled. Our game with Delhi in the first round got cancelled and so we had not played them before. We had no idea about them; had we played them in the round robin phase and lost we would have figured them out and beaten them in the semis.
Also, in the last round-robin game against Kolkata, we suffered many injuries. The Vipers finished last but they were a very physical team, lot of heavy hitters, and they just battered our guys. We won the match, but everyone was bruised. We lost Dilip due to injury and he didn’t play in the semis.
And to be honest, if there was one team we didn’t want to play, it was Delhi, all heavy hitters. But, we got Delhi, can’t help it.
So it was a disappointing ending, but then we have to move on from there and we will look to get better.