IM Vijayan, Indian football legend turns 52

The former India captain was the first player to win the AIFF player of the year award multiple times.

Former Indian football team captain IM Vijayan turns 52 on April 25,2021; Credit: Twitter/@IMVijayan1
By Sreejith C R | Apr 25, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

From selling soda bottles at the corporation stadium in Thrissur to becoming the highest-paid footballer in India, the lean and lanky striker has gone through the leaps and bounds of life to become the legend of Indian football. IM Vijayan’s life is a perfect example of rags to riches story. The striker from Kerala has played for the biggest clubs in India and scored around 240 goals in his club career. The striker from the cultural capital of Kerala is regarded as arguably the most talented footballer India has ever seen.

Inivalappil Mani Vijayan was born on April 25, 1969, in Thrissur. As a teenager, he was spotted by the late DGP of Kerala M.K. Joseph. He was selected for the Kerala Police team that played in the Quilon Nationals in 1987 and impressed everyone with his impeccable skills and aggressive attacking play. Vijayan’s first title triumph came at the 1990 Federation Cup held at the Thrissur Corporation stadium. Kerala Police beat Goan giants Salgaocar 2-1 in the Final.

From 1987 to 1991 Vijayan scored 33 goals for Kerala Police before joining Kolkata giants Mohun Bahan. Vijayan scored 27 goals for Mohun Bagan in the 1991-92 season. Vijayan went on to play for a number of top Indian cubs- JCT Mills, FC Kochin, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers. He had won his only National Football League(NFL) now I-League title with the JCT Mills in the 1996-97 season. He scored 240 goals in his club career and retired from club football in the 2005-2006 season, while playing for East Bengal.

Vijayan got his first national team call up in 1989, and then went on to represent the nation at the SAFF Games, SAFF Cup, Pre-Olympic qualifiers, FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Afro-Asian Games, and Nehru Cup. In 79 appearances for the Blue Tigers, he has scored 40 goals. He is the third-highest top scorer for India, behind only- Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri.  

His 12th-second long-range goal against Bhutan in the 1999 SAFF Games is one of the fastest goals scored in football. He scored a hat-trick against Pakistan in the 1999 South Asian Games.  Vijayan formed a formidable strike partnership with Baichung Bhutia and the duo played a pivotal role in India’s success in the ’90s. He retired from international football after the 2003 Afro-Asian Games where he was the top scorer with four goals.

The former captain was the first Indian footballer to win the AIFF player of the year award multiple times. He won the award in 1993,1997 and 1999. The nation honoured him with the Arjuna Award in 2003 for his incredible contribution to Indian football.

The Malayali footballer made his silver screen debut in 2001, in the movie Shantham. He then went on to act in over 20 movies in Malayalam and Tamil film industry. He is now serving as an Assistant Commandant of Kerala Police.

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