There was a time when we carried a series of some football greats from Goa of the seventies and eighties era. That was a journey through time; a journey of football highs and in this journey a few players were bound to be skipped. I was certain some football greats of that era were missed but at that time could not ascertain who they were. Their heroics on the field flashed past ones mind but their names did not.
And one such name was of Vasu Chodankar.
Vasu was one such great player. One remembers Vasu during his time with Sesa Goa Sports Club and his pursuits with the ball thereafter. He was a player of an era where it really did not matter whether a team had a good goalkeeper or not because the defending rested on them.
The late seventies and eighties was an era of football in Goa where little emphasis was laid on goalkeepers because the defenders did such a great job and along with Vasu for Sesa was Vishwas Gaonkar . Just the same way Nicholas Pereira and Mahesh Lotlikar held the defense for Dempo SC.
Vasu and Vishwas were two tall pillars in the Sesa defense and that could be why coach Melo never bothered to have good hands to guard the goal for Sesa. Not that the teams goalkeepers were bad .But, with guys like Vasu and Vishwas it did not matter if they were not the best.
Vasu was solid in the air. He was difficult to beat on high balls and kept opponents at bay by imposing his huge figure and blocking their way forward. He had long legs which he used to stretch out and block shots or passes through and one of the best things about Vasu was his spirit on and off the field.
When Vasu and Vishwas played together, the Sesa Goa defense was impenetrable. If one of the two was out due to injury, the other made up. Both knew when to cover space and when to cover man. The two made defensive football attractive.
Vasu was one of the few players of his time to leave Goa and move to Mumbai to play with Mahindra and Mahindra. He shone there too and soon became a craze at the Cooperage. He had a good game for every Goan after a game and just like in Goa, began a fan following of his own in Mumbai.
Many players think of continuing or giving back to the game after they hang their boots. Vasu was different. He wanted to do something that made others happy – as he did with the ball on the field- and started a fast food joint near the football ground in Saligao. He became a favourite there too.
From fast food to restaurateur, Vasu grew fast and soon was running one popular restaurant on the Calangute -Baga stretch. I really do not know how he developed his taste for football but it was clear that he had a style for service. Like on the field, he had a style of his own in his restaurants and that is why his clients went with him wherever he went.
Vasu took his flashiness on the field to his world off. He loved good bikes; good cars; good drinks and pretty women.
Family bonding was essential for him and that could explain why Vasu always cared for his younger brother Sandesh. When Sandesh was young, Vasu worried how he would do in football. He followed his brother’s game and when his brother quit, he roped him into the restaurant business too.
“Bhatkar’ or “ Bhatkani” were his favourite words- whoever you were. It did not matter because Vasu knew that life was all about trying to be good and giving what really did not hurt. He was loud and liked to live life big.
As I was watching a match the other day it took me a while to realise that Vasu had passed away. Lives are about full stops. Some stops go past unnoticed while others leave a mark. Vasu’s left a mark of a life well lived with the ball and without. His is a good full stop of continuity.