The FC Bardez Goalkeeping Coach spoke exclusively to Khel Now’s Ravish Narvekar in a chat about, football, life, his playing career, venture into coaching and much more…

Chandakant Naik, affectionately known as “Chandu” to his friends was born in the beautiful village of Sirvodem in Navelim, Goa on 11 September 1962. He holds the record of playing for 29 years in the Goa Professional League. The veteran football profession also holds the distinction for being the only Goan to be fast-tracked straight into the national team before making even a single appearance for his native state.

Naik’s career began with Eformos Sports Club in 1978. Before hanging up his boots in 2009 while playing for Faria Sports Management he had travelled across 14 clubs in the region including the likes of traditional heavyweights Salgaocar FC and Dempo Sports Club, winning countless major domestic honours for club and state.

The shot-stopper was first noticed when he was called up for the national camp by then India Coach Milovan Ciric when he was playing in the Peerless Trophy in Kolkata for Dempo in 1983. But his first cap for the country came a year later when India was on a goodwill tour of the Caribbean where he played against Trinidad & Tobago. Next he played against Guinea and Suriname on the same tour. He also played in an exhibition match against Brazilian heavyweights Sao Paulo that same year. In 1987 he was part of the Indian team that played in the Nehru International Gold Cup and featured against China & Denmark.

Chandrakant Naik with Santosh Trophy in 1984 after winning the championship.

He was also part of the Goa State team which won the Santosh Trophy in 1984. in 1994 he captained the state side in the same tournament where they finished runners-up.

Naik’s adventure on the touchline began when he was still a player in 2004 with Raitura Sports Club. Since then he has served with a number of different teams including Raia Sports Club, Maharashtra, Churchill Brothers and Mumbai Tigers. He was the Head Coach of the India School Team which participated in the Asian School Championship 2003. In 2015, he was assigned as the Goalkeeping Coach of India U-16 team who were runners-up in the SAFF U-16 Championship in Bangladesh.

Naik enjoyed success with Dempo SC in various tournaments.

Following a career in football spanning over three decades as player and coach, during which he has been with some of the biggest clubs in the country, Naik has now joined Armando Colaco’s backroom staff as Goalkeeping Coach with Goa’s newest club. FC Bardez. He sat down with Khel Now’s Ravish Narvekar for a heart-to-heart, reflecting on his glorious career as well as his plans for the future.

After such a distinguished career in the national game, when asked to describe what football meant to him? Naik’s reply was as solid and forthright as his work between the sticks, “Football is all I have dreamt of. It is not just a career to me it is my lifeline. You can say I live, eat and dream only football. It flows in my blood. Football has given me an identity.”

It is understandable why the veteran professional is an inspiration to those who know him, being someone who has risen up the ranks having overcome tough times in his childhood to realize his dreams in the game. Naik worked as an office boy for a local company GM Davaidanya for a salary of Rs. 100 per month, whilst he also sold fruits and ice-creams as well as working as a daily wage labourer at construction sites. But, in what is a testament to the character of the man, Naik says he’s proud to look back on those times and believes the experiences have prepared him well to take on the various challenges of life.

Naik Playing for Churchill Brothers against East Bengal.

Talking about his initiation into the game he says it was completely by chance. “I used to play cricket for my school team (Bhatikar Model English High School Margao). One fine day when there was a football match being played between my school team and Rosary High School, Navelim, the goalkeeper was injured and our coach insisted that I should get in between the sticks. It all started from there,” he recounts

Naik mentions Late Serbian manager and former India boss Milovan Ciric as one of his key mentors and as someone who helped him rise to national prominence. He also says that former Dempo Coach Bob Buthland with whom both he and the club enjoyed extensive success is arguably the best manager he has ever played under. The veteran footballer –turned-coach considers former England great Peter Shilton as his idol and says it was the Englishman’s longevity at the top level of the sport that impressed him the most.

When asked to pick out the fondest moment from what was a stellar career as a player, Naik goes back in time to the 1987 Nehru Cup and the game against Denmark. “It was a really special game for me. They were one of the best teams at that time but we drew 1-1 against them,” he recollects fondly. The former shot-stopper also mentions the exhibition match against Brazilian giants Sao Paolo in 1984 and says it was a great experience to rub shoulders with legends like Sidney José Tobias and Luís Antônio Corrêa da Costa (Müller) who were part of the team at the time.

Naik got promoted to NFL with Churchill Brothers in 1996…

Closer to the present, Naik says he’s enjoying his time in the dugout at FCBG and that it feels good to once again join forces with former Dempo teammate Colaco. “We were teammates at Dempo for nearly four years. He has been a great companion. I feel he is a great coach,” he says appreciatively. Indian football’s newest club made a triumphant start lifting silverware in their maiden tournament the Goa Police Cup and the club’s goalkeeping mentor says he’s keen to lay the foundations for greater success going forward and help the club become one of the country’s top football institutions in the future.

Naik awarded Bakshi Bahadar Jivaba Dada Kerkar Award for contribution in Football

He votes for former West Bengal and India glovesman Bhaskar Ganguly as one of the best keepers the country has produced and feels confidence, agility and quick reactions are three of the key attributes that go into the making of a good goalkeeper.

As for his future plans, Naik says he wishes for his son to follow in his footsteps and represent the country in his beloved sport and also for someone to break his record for longevity in the professional game in India.

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Interview by Khel Now Correspondent Ravish Narvekar from Goa . A true Football enthusiast & a die hard Liverpool fan. Ravish also enjoys travelling & he’s an avid foodie.