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How a soda bottle seller became India's best footballer

In our cricket-obsessed country, it is quite difficult for legends of other sports to come into the spotlight. But there are always exceptions and one such exception was IM Vijayan.

How a soda bottle seller became Indias best footballer
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By

Sagnik

Published: 27 April 2020 2:59 PM GMT

In our cricket-obsessed country, it is quite difficult for legends of other sports to come into the spotlight. But there are always exceptions and one such exception was footballer IM Vijayan, popularly known as the Kalo Harin or Black Buck.

Born in a Dalit family, Vijayan’s childhood and growing years were tough. He had to sell soda bottles outside the Thrissur Municipal Corporation Stadium so that he could support his family financially after the death of his father. But his love and passion for football was there right from the start.

Not a very bright student, Vijayan found solace in the sport. It was a pleasant diversion for him from his daily tough grind. As he grew up, he became a star in seven football circle, earning ₹40 to ₹50 rupees per match. His precocious talent soon spotted, however.

For everyone who has ever been successful, there is one particular juncture, one moment that can be defined as the turning point of their lives. For Vijayan, it came when he was spotted on the field by MK Joseph, the then DGP of Kerala. Impressed by the teenagers skills, Joseph brought Vijayan to the Kerala Police football club, a team for which he played till 1991.

Three legends in one frame - Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and IM Vijayan

At the age of 17, he made his club career debut with the team. He managed to mesmerize everyone with his talent at the Quilon Nationals in 1987. His fierce and aggressive nature made him an instant fan favourite. Soon, Vijayan even earned a place in the national side in 1989.

https://twitter.com/TheBridge_IN/status/1254000539987136512

Through the 90s, Vijayan played for many big clubs, including multiple stints at Mohun Bagan, JCT and a 2-year stint with East Bengal. He scored over 250 goals, and is said to be a class apart from the rest.

Indeed, during his time, another young Sikimese talent, Bhaichung Bhutia had started to gain prominence. In fact, having played at Bury FC and being the star of many Kolkata derbies, Bhaichung has the bigger profile. However, as per his contemporaries, Vijayan was far more dangerous on the pitch.

For one, he was a more complete footballer who would not just get inside the box and score goals. He was someone who could effortlessly drop to midfield, and if needed, fall back to defence. On top of that, he had an amazing touch and could finish clinically.

Vijayan’s lanky frame and uncoordinated body movements was deceptive for the opposition, they could never match his sudden change of pace. He was also one of the finest exponents of the free-kick and the overhead kick during his time.

That his career, especially the best years, was before the era of football being broadcast nationwide is a tragedy.

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