Thursday, Aug 18, 2022 07:30 [IST]
Last Update: Thursday, Aug 18, 2022 01:50 [IST]
History has proved that Indian football have some of the popular ‘Thapa’ footballers having earned big names because of their magical football skills. Shyam Thapa (Chettri), who was popular because of his magical goal scoring technique through scissor kick in early 80s, is a legendry footballer of Thapa (Chettri) Nepali community. Similarly star footballer of his time, Narendra Thapa (Chettri) is also a big name in Indian Football who earned a huge respect by his magnificent soccer skills. In his professional football career, Narendra Thapa was a star as all the big clubs in Kolkata went after him. He was one of the vital members of Indian Football Team having represented the country in Asia Cup, Nehru Cup, Pre Olympic, World Cup Qualifier and Chinese Great Wall Cup. In his social life, Narendra Thapa was a highly regarded gentleman because of his cordial nature and philanthropic services.
Early life and Education
Born on 22 September, 1964 at Yamuna Nagar, Haryana to Bhim Bahadur Thapa and Kunat Thapa, Narendra was the eldest child of the siblings of four brothers and three sisters. He was polite, humble and down to earth by nature since childhood, having sharp mind and good in studies beside sports activities. He completed his schooling in MLN Sr. Sec. School, Yamuna Nagar, Haryana and later on joined Sports School, Mahilpur (Punjab).
Early footballing days
He was a big fan of football since his childhood. His natural football talents help him to further his footballing skills early in his life. In 1980, he took part in the Asian School Championship at Jakarta (Indonesia). His stellar performance at the National Games that year brought him into the limelight at the National arena. His skills and potential were soon realized by Coach Sir Ali Husain, one of the popular footballers cum coach having produced many National level footballers of his time helped Narendra make a move to JCT FC, Punjab.
Narendra Thapa was one of the best strikers of his time. Former players of his time used to compare Narendra’s football skills with the likes of Argentine star Diego Maradona as both shared similar playing style and height as well. After completing class XII, he started his career as a professional football player with Club JCT FC in 1981, where he played for two years, before moving to Mafatlal Group FC, Bombay in 1983. Thapa emerged as the leading scorer in Indian National League in 1983. In the 1984, he was signed with Mohammedan Sporting, Calcutta and since then, he was a regular member of the Indian football team. In 1986, Thapa made a move to Indian football giants Mohun Bagan. The following season, Thapa won his first club honour, the Federation Cup. Thapa was featured as one of the most prominent players of this competition. He moved back to Mohammden Sporting to play till the end of 1989 to 1990 season.
His precious talent caught the attention of the Indian football team selectors and he was chosen to represent India in his first International tournament, the Nehru Gold Cup in the year 1983. There he played against some of the major football playing Nations like Italy, Hungary and China. He represented India at the Chinese Great Wall Cup and Soviet Union tour in 1984. In the year 1984, he was a member of Indian National Team for Asia Cup held at Singapore and played against Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Iran, China and South Korea. In the year 1984 & 85, he played the prestigious Nehru Gold Cup against Poland, Argentina, Hungary, Romania and China, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco. In 1986, he represented the India Team in World Cup Qualifier and played against Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh.
Honours and Awards
Narendra Thapa began his football career early in the 80s and became a highly regarded player for his skill and canniness as a forward. He became one of the favourite pupils of the legendary coach Ciric Milovan, who was at the helm of the National team during the 1984-1985 seasons. Thapa made his National team debut in 1983 and played 29 matches for the country. He scored three goals for the National side. Thapa made headlines when he scored the lone goal in India’s 1-0 triumph over Algeria in the 1984 Great Wall Cup in Beijing. Hailing from Punjab, Thapa came to the city in the early 80s and went on to play for all the Big Three clubs of the India; Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting at different span of his career and was a winning member of titles like the Federation Cup, Rovers Cup and IFA Shield. He was a member of the Santosh Trophy winning Bengal squad of 1986 too.
He was a founder Managing Director of Minerva International School (Yamuna Nagar Haryana) established in 1996 and was a Director of Great Warriors Football Academy (Yamuna Nagar Haryana) that was established in the year 2016. He served as one of the manager of Food Cooperation India (FCI) since 1985 till his last breath.
Narendra Thapa breathed his last following a cardiac arrest while in sleep on 5th August, 2022 at his home town leaving behind everlasting memories among football lovers. He was 58. His right side was paralyzed in a cerebral attack a few years back but like a fighter on the playfield he went on to attend his office even after that.
FIFA President Mr. Gianni Infantino condoled the sudden death of Narendra Thapa. He said, “On behalf of the International Football Community, I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the All India Football Federation, and to Narendra’s family, friends and loved ones. Our thoughts are with all of you”, he wrote.
His death was condoled by All India Football Federation (AIFF) with acting general secretary Sunando Dhar stating, “It is sad to hear that Mr. Thapa is no more. He was a key player in the Indian team during his time, and his contribution to Indian Football can never be forgotten. He has been an inspiring figure for people across generations.” One of his National and Club team colleagues, Krishnendu Roy said, “Narendra Thapa was a gentleman in the true sense and was respected for his temperament. He was an exceptional striker with a rare combination of skill, speed and stamina”.
Sikkim Football Association condoled the untimely demise of former India International Narendra Thapa. Menla Ethenpa, President, SFA said, “It is sad to hear that Narendra Thapa is no more. He has been an inspiring figure especially amongst our hill people. He was a key player for the Indian team during his time and his contributions to Indian football can never be forgotten. My heartfelt condolences to his family and prayers for the department soul to rest in peace". In his message, Suresh Mukhia, India National player said, "Narendra Thapa was a technically sound player especially in midfield position. His ball control, passing accuracy and ball heading was superb and was regarded as one of the finest Midfielders of India".
Narendra Thapa got married in 1985 with Sunita Thapa having one son named Mukul Thapa and daughters, Salakha Thapa and Pratibha Thapa. Before the end of his journey, Narendra served as Manager in FCI, Kolkata and played for FCI during his football career. He left the mortal world at the prime stage of his life but the legacy he has left behind in Indian football will be remembered forever. He was also in the heart of Sikkimese footballers and will remain forever. We offer our Hardik Shrandhanjali (obituary) to the departed soul and extend heartfelt condolence to Mrs. Sunita Thapa and Mr. Naren Thapa.
Amitabha Das Sharma, starsports.thehindu.com, Kolkata, 2022.
Sunny Daud, india.com, 2022.
Thebridge.in Sports, 2022.
News9live.com, Sports, Football, 2022.
An Interview taken with Mr. Naren Chettri, brother of Lt. Narendra Thapa (Chettri) on 8th August, 2022.
(The writer is a Joint Director, Sports & Youth Affairs Department, Govt. of Sikkim)