New Delhi: To Bhaichung Bhutia, he is a footballer who was good enough to play for any top Asian club. Former national coach Sukhwinder Singh still believes no Indian in recent past had such a powerful left. Yet, Jo Paul Ancheri, 30, today is almost a forgotten man. Lonely and without a team to play for, Ancheri, a star in Indian football only a couple of years ago, is now fighting to recover from an operation he had on his right leg recently.
So much so that Ancheri has now been forced to take up a job as a Lower Division Clerk in the Kerala State Government’s Ministry of Health. “The Health Department has recently recruited some footballers like Suresh and Ajayan. But I had to join as an LDC since I no more play for India,” said Ancheri to The Telegraph from Trichur.
The Health Department, Ancheri said, has a team in the Division C in Trivandrum and he may have to play for it if called up by his employers.
“It doesn’t matter that I am a former India captain and have played for top clubs like Mohun Bagan, JCT or FC Kochin. They will only give me a promotion if I again play for India. Otherwise I remain an LDC,” he said.
Ancheri admitted that he does feel frustrated sometimes. “I was in the thick of things both at the international and national level only recently. Today I am forced to practice alone in a ground near my house. But once I recover from my operation, I will go all out to make a comeback. But I have to be careful. After all, the right leg is my balancing foot.”
Ancheri, tall, fair and handsome, fondly remembers how spectacular were some of his goals for India as well as JCT, Mohun Bagan and FC Kochin.
“I was the toast of the crowd then in Calcutta. I will also not forget how I was humiliated by then Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya when he fielded me for just one minute in the Durand Cup last time.
“Yet, I provided a goalbearing pass for Dhramjit the moment I received the ball. I was never played again.
“Yes, today, I am a lonely man. No one even calls me up except for IM Vijayan and Sukhwinder occasionally. I have a small job with a mearge salary. I get to know about the NFL or the India-Japan match only from the newspapers.”
JO PAULl ANCHERI FACT - FILE
Has played more than 50 matches for India betweeen 1994-2003 and scored more than 20 goals
Represented India in one pre-Olympics, one pre-World Cup, two Asian Games, three SAF Games, two SAFF football tournaments, two Nehru Cups, two Asian Cups, LG Cup, Independence Cup, Afro-Asian Cup
Captained India in the pre-Olympics in ’95, in the SAF Games in ’99, Merdeka Cup in ’01 and Asian Cup in ’03
Won two SAFF football titles for India ' in Kathmandu (’97) and Goa (’99), one SAF Games (’95), Independence Cup in Doha (’94), LG Cup in Vietnam (’02). Was runners-up in Afro-Asian Games (’03) in Hyderabad
Was adjudged Player of the Tournament in Independence Cup in Doha (’94)
At club level, played for Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, JCT and FC Kochin. Won all trophies including National Football League, Federation Cup, IFA Shield, Durand Cup and Rovers Cup.
Starred as a winger. Then he was made a defender by then Indian coach Rustam Akhramov. Later he settled as a central midfielder