Michael Chopra has earned his limited yet noteworthy fame through his exploits playing for Premier League clubs like Sunderland and Newcastle United. A tally of nine goals in the English top tier isn't something that will stand out in the greater scheme of things, but being the only person with Indian parentage to play and score in the Premier League, significantly changes the perspective.
Chopra's attempts to make an impact in India, first through a possible place in the national team in 2010, and later through the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2014 have been thwarted by government policies and injuries respectively.
But the 33-year-old Newcastle-born striker isn't ready to call it quits. Chopra, whose participation in next season's ISL remains uncertain, is now looking to make a mark in Indian football through a role in the dugout.
The former Kerala Blasters forward has been pursuing the AIFF D-Licence course at the Cooperage over the past week. The coaching badge is the most basic that one could acquire in India. It only qualifies a person to coach local district-level teams and school sides.
Seeing a former Premier League player make an appearance at the coaching classes would have surprised many, but Chopra feels no reason for being treated specially.
"I want to start from the bottom and work my way up. I’m no different from anybody else. Yes, I have played at the highest level in the UK, but that doesn’t mean I should get one step further ahead of anybody else. I must learn like everybody else is learning," Chopra told Firstpost in an interview on the sidelines of the Cooperage pitch.
Justifying his decision to pursue the D-Licence, the 33-year-old revealed his desire to coach young Indian kids in the future and turn them into footballers capable of plying their trade in Europe.
"Once I get my badges, then I can coach kids which is the next step for me. I want to help produce Indian footballers who can make it big in Europe. Why is it that there are 1.3 billion people in this country and they can’t produce an outstanding footballer? Hopefully I can help change that," he added.
Having played almost the whole of his career in the UK, it is intriguing why Chopra didn't choose to pursue coaching badges in the UK where the courses on offer are considered to be better. But his rationale behind his decision reflects a level of honesty, or maybe pragmatism to an extent.
"I’ve had to have a look at the fact that if I did my badges there (in the UK), realistically would I coach in the UK? I don’t think I would coach there. I don't want to coach in England," assessed Chopra, who felt India, where football is on the rise, would be a more suitable place for him to coach.
The former England youth player feels doing the D-Licence has been a fruitful venture for him and has taught him things he wasn't aware of before.
"Some of the stuff that have been taught here is something that I didn’t know before. As a player it’s easier to play the game and look at situations on the pitch. But as coach you have to stand back, you have to see it differently; you have to speak with the kids differently, like you speak with the rest of the players. When you talk to the kids they must listen to you, they should show respect," analysed the striker.
"I have come to the classroom here and done some theory stuff. I hadn’t done some of those things before, I didn’t know it. Everyday I’ve been here, I’ve learnt," he added.
A foray into coaching doesn't necessarily spell the end of Chopra's playing career, but the forward admits he has a decision to make, especially with his growing presence in Indian television where he often appears as a football pundit.
"I have got to think about what I would want to do with my Indian TV work. Should I continue doing my TV work and not play in the ISL for another year? I don’t know. Or should I play in the ISL and not do the TV work? It’s a decision which I will have to make and sit down with people and discuss," revealed Chopra, who holds the record of scoring the quickest goal in Premier League history after coming on as a substitute.
Chopra will have to take a call regarding his playing career sooner rather than later, even more so, with his latest venture – that of coaching. The forward has decided to do it the hard way as he tries to finally make an impact in Indian football through a role on the touchline.
The former Premier League striker admitted that he underestimated the ISL when he first played in it, but his modest approach to coaching this time around could just do the trick.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 09:28 AM