Indian Football Moments: Jo Paul Ancheri instant impact at Mohun Bagan

Jo Paul Ancheri has played as a striker, midfielder and a defender during his career. He was a versatile player during what was a phenomenal career that lasted more than a decade. 

He found success at several points in his career but there is one season of football that still brings an instant smile to his face. And that's the year 1994 when he joined Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan.

From being a Santosh Trophy star in Kerala, Mohun Bagan was Ancheri's big step up at that point in his career and he got off to a splendid start. The Bagan team, captained by Tanumoy Basu, clinched the Calcutta Football League (CFL), Sikkim Governer's Gold Cup, Durand Cup and Federation Cup that year and Jo Paul Ancheri's debut season in the intense cauldron of Kolkata football was lauded. 

It was in 1994 that Bagan became the first Indian club to complete a hat-trick of Federation Cup victories twice. They not only won the three major trophies but also defeated Club Valencia 7-1 and Ratnam FC 5-1 in the group stages of the Asian Club Championship before losing out in the next round.  

Ancheri had an important role to play for his team, like how he helped the Mariners in the final of the Sikkim Gold Cup. With his team down by two goals, the Keralite produced a hat-trick to settle the game. 

"It was an end to an eight-year wait for Mohun Bagan to win the Durand Cup and I scored the winning goal (against East Bengal). I joined the team after the 1994 Santosh Trophy. We won the Sikkim Gold Cup, I scored a hat-trick in that. It was a good year for me," Ancheri told Goal

"We also won the Federation Cup that year in Goa, beating Salgaocar. These were moments from the beginning of my career. It were those performances that helped me earn a place in the Indian national team. 

Jo Paul Ancheri and Deepak Tangri

"Those days, there were a lot of tournaments to compete in. The likes of East Bengal, JCT, Salgaocar were very strong," the retired footballer, who was AIFF's Player of the Year in 1994, recalled. 

It was the impressive displays at Bagan that helped cement his place in the Indian national team. He was considered a hot prospect and had attended senior team camps but made it into the main team for the Qatar Independence Cup in 1994. 

"I was part of the camps in 1993 but my first entry to the national team was in 1994. I had played for the India U-19s but I soon got the chance to play for the national team in the Qatar Independence Cup in 1994. I was also the best player in that tournament.

"My performances improved with that Bagan team and we had a good group in the national team."

Jo Paul Ancheri also turned out for the likes of JCT, FC Kochin and East Bengal and was often hailed as a team player. After hanging up his boots, he turned to coaching and was the coach at the Mohun Bagan-SAIL academy for a brief period. 

Mohun Bagan had a few disappointing seasons after the memorable 1994 campaign. In fact, when the National Football League (NFL) started in 1996, Bagan ended up as one of the worst performers but they soon bounced back to win their first NFL title in 1997 under the tutelage of Keralite TK Chathunni.