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Remembering Xavier Pius, one of India’s most aesthetically pleasing strikers

Remembering Xavier Pius, one of India’s most aesthetically pleasing strikers

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 11 Feb 2021 11:00 AM GMT

When you talk about frenzied following for football in India, you think about four regions, Bengal, Goa, the Northeast and Kerala. While the first three have had a number of historic clubs and competitions that made them stay relevant in popular culture over the years, Kerala always lacked that one club-like entity that could galvanize the entire Malayali population. They did however have many names who have left an indelible mark on the footballing legacy of India, albeit while playing for a club in another part of the country. One such name is that of Xavier Pius, a Mohun Bagan legend who was an important cog in the 1973 Santosh Trophy-winning Kerala team.

Pius rose to national prominence while playing for Kochi’s Premier Tyres, which boasted of other famous names like KP Sethumadhavan, Victor Manjila, Muhammed Basheer and PP Prasannan. Following on from their Santosh Trophy victory, the team went on to win four more tournaments in 1975 while Pius himself was voted as the Kerala Football Association’s Player of the Year in 1978. However, a year later, most of their stalwarts, including Pius, left for greener pastures.


For Pius, who was already an established member in the Indian national team by then, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. He made an immediate impact with his languid and effortless playing style and captured the imagination of the ardent Green and Maroon fans. One of his most memorable performances for the Mariners came in 1981 when he scored both the goals in a historic win over bitter rivals East Bengal in the semi-final of the Federation Cup. The team went on to lift the trophy by beating Mohammedan SC in the final.

He stayed in Kolkata till 1989 and was one of the biggest names in Indian football at that time. For the Indian team, he featured extensively between 1875 and 1983, even captaining the side in 1982. The international tournaments where he represented India included the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games, the 1980 Pre-Olympic tournament in Singapore as well as the Merdeka Trophy in Malaysia in 1981. While playing for Mohun Bagan, he had also joined the State Bank of India whom he served for an impressive 34 years before retiring in late 2013. He also dipped his hands in coaching youngsters back in Kerala and is an AFC ‘A’ license qualified coach. But what will probably remain as his lasting memory in the minds of football fans of that era is him gliding past defenders with ultimate grace and poise before finishing impeccably, more often than not.

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