Cheema Okorie dons new hat

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Cheema Okorie is probably the most loved footballer in India after Baichung Bhutia.

Updated: October 31, 2007 07:22 IST
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New Delhi:

Cheema Okorie is probably the most loved footballer in India after Baichung Bhutia.

He is Nigerian but has spent all his time playing in India.

Last year he was back as a commentator on NDTV for the Football World Cup and this year he's back as a coach for the OSIAN New Delhi heroes.

And the club has already hit the headlines by qualifying for the Durand Cup.

He was once known as the angry young man of Indian football. Now, Cheema Okerie isn't young any longer, but put him on a football field, and he can still be a very angry man.

The Nigerean, known as the Black Cheetah in his playing days, is currently coaching the New Delhi Heroes.

But here he has donned an avatar, not known to many before.

Cheema has been seen in the footballer's boots, the coach's cap, but now it's the chef's hat.

Cheema does try his hand at rustling up a meal once in a while, but maybe it's the football field and not the kitchen that suits him more.

"Once there was oil in the pot, and it was boiling and I don't know what happened and I poured water all over it, and it went phoooo. I thought it would catch fire, but luckily I managed to calm the flame,' said Cheema.

When asked, on a scale of 10, how would he rate himself as a coach and as a chef, he said, "Cheema the chef only two per cent, Cheema the coach, well no, am more of a guy to the youngsters, so I cant say anything about that."

The Nigerian can certainly rate himself better than that as a coach. His team New Delhi Heroes has become the first Delhi team to qualify for the main draw of the Durand Cup since 1974.

But interestingly it's not football that brought him to India.

"I came to India in 1983 to study and I didn't mean to play football in India, but it's a question of destiny. But here I am. I played football in India. I combined studies and football. I went away and now I'm back in India in football as a coach," he said.

"It's been a long journey, a long journey of understanding, of knowing, of being a part of the Indian people because I think my life is here in India."

Cheema is one of very few players to have served all three Kolkata Giants Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan sporting, winning the top scorer title six times in the Kolkata league.

He hung up his boots in 2002, but he's still in the business of helping build Indian football.

In a country starved of sporting heroes outside the cricketing field, Cheema Okerie really is one man many would want to emulate.

From being a star player to a man who's earning himself the reputation of a very very good coach and how high this man aims can be judged from his own words, when he says that his favourite Indian football memory is yet to come.

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