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Legends of Kerala

Nov 25, 2015 17:01

Kerala - "god's own country". That's Kerala's image that comes to our minds right? It is true and what most Indians think of it, but, that is not their only identity. Kerala has provided India with a plethora of footballing talent. If we look at Indian football history, we see that the state has produced many unique gems over the years. Football in Kerala may have seen a downfall a few years back in terms of the national level league presence, but that did not stop the state from producing top notch talent. Let us look at a few Legends of Football that Kerala has provided us. 

Thazhatheri Abdul Rahaman or Olympian Rahaman was born in Kozhikode on January 20, 1934. He has played for Mohun Bagan, Rajasthan club amongst other top tier clubs and has also represented India on multiple occasions.

Rahaman started his career with Independence Spots club in Kozhikode and later joined the Universal Club. At the club, Rahaman became a household name of Malabar football during that period. He represented the Malabar team which made their way to the Semi Finals of the Rovers Cup in 1954. He made his debut against Russia in 1955 at Thiruvananthapuram. At the tender age of 19, He was one of the best Left Back and Left Wingers in the country. His national team call up resulted in a transfer to the Rajasthan Club. He was also a part of the squad that finished 4th in the 1956 Olympics, India’s biggest achievement on the international stage. The nickname Olympian Rahaman stuck since then.

He joined Mohun Bagan in 1959 where he was a central defensive figure. He also managed to captain the side in early 60’s. He also captained Bangalore to win the Santosh Trophy in 1962. The defender was also a part of Bengal defence that won the Santosh trophy 9 times between the years 1955 and 1966. He helped the team win 4 titles during this span. The legendary defender retired on the 10th of November 1967.In the later stages of his life, the Olympian coached the giants of football like Mohammedan Sporting, Premier Tyres and Travancore Titanium. Olympian Rahaman passed away on the 15th of December 2002. In 2005, the Kozhikode District Football Association (KDFA) had set up an academy in Kozhikode in memory of Olympian T Abdul Rahaman. The aim of the Olympian Rahaman Memorial Academy of Football (ORMA) is to promote young talent in Kerala especially in the Malabar region.

VP Sathyan was born on April 29, 1965 in Mekkunnu near Chokli, Kannur district. He was one of the finest Centre Back’s and Defensive Midfielders India has seen, he was also the winner of the 1995 AIFF player of the year award. He led the Indian team to a gold medal in the 1995 SAF Games in Chennai. He also led Kerala to the Santosh Trophy title in 1992.

He started his youth club career with Spirited Youth Club in the year 1982 and moved on to play for Lucky Star club a year later. He finally joined the strongest side in the state at the time – Kerala Police in 1984.

PK Banerjee, The national coach, saw that the defender could not only perform well defensively but could also hold the ball well, could shoot accurately from a long range and had the gift of handling the set pieces well. Assessing these factors and coupling them the 3 decade long experience that Banerjee had with the national side, he asked Sathyan to move forward and play as a defensive midfielder. Sathyan rose to the occasion and became a key player, shielding his defence and distributing the ball to the offence.

The former national team captain won back to back federations cups with Kerala Police in 1989 and 1990. He then moved to Bengal based Mohammedan Sporting Club in the later part of 1990. Mohammedan club was unlucky as they could not see the Defensive Midfielder in his prime and the Kerala born player saw a dip in his form which forced the side to release the player. He then joined Mohun Bagan, a club where his domestic career received a major boost. He was also one of the key factors which helped bring IM Vijayan and Jo Paul Ancheri to Kolkata. In the later parts of his career he went back to play for Kerala Police post which he played for Indian Bank. Sathyan’s life came a tragic end when committed suicide in July of 2006 by jumping in front of train. It is believed that he took the drastic step because he was unable to handle financial situations.

Inivalappil Mani Vijayan was born on the 25th of April 1969 in Thrissur, Kerala. He is widely regarded as one of the most gifted strikers in the history of Indian Football. He was crowned Indian Player of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 1999, the first player to win the award multiple times. He was also awarded the Arjuna award in 2003. The Indian Forward managed to hit the back of the net 40 times in his 79 national team appearances.

Vijayan began his club career playing for Kerala Police football club at the tender age of 17 years. He went on to play for the side for 4 years before he made the switch to East Bengal in 1991. He has also played for JTC Mills Phagwara, FC Kochin, Churchill Brothers and East Bengal in a domestic career which lasted almost 2 decades. He turned down offers to play for clubs abroad form countries like Malaysia and Thailand. Vijayan last donned the East Bengal jersey for the 2005-2006 season post which he retired from domestic football.

The Striker made his debut for Indian Football Team in the year 1989 and went to play a number of tournaments such as Nehru Cup, pre-Olympics, pre-World Cup, SAAF Cup and SAF Games. Baichung Bhutia and Vijayan and formed one of the deadliest forward lines the Indian Football team had ever seen. During the late 90’s and the early 2000’s they helped the team score various vital goals in international tournaments. Vijayan was part of the Indian team which won South Asian Football Federation Cup in the year 1999. He was the top scorer of the joint Afro-Asian Games event held in India in 2003, beating keepers on 4 occasions. He is also known for scoring the third fastest goal in the history of football, managing to hit the back of the net after just 12 seconds of gameplay, a feat which he achieved while playing in the historic 1999 SAFF tournament. Vijayan formally retired from international football after the Afro-Asian Games of 2003.

As can be seen, Kerala has a strong football influence in its roots. Often one would get confused in the streets of Kerala during FIFA World Cups due to the massive support shown for the South American teams like Argentina and Brazil. Known as one of the 3 football crazy states in India (the others being Bengal and Goa), Kerala is making headway with hosting an ISL franchise and coming out at the National level in football again. The likes of C.K.Vineeth, Justin Stephen and Pradeep now have a platform to move ahead. With the interest from Krala football regaining its momentum, we can expect a lot from this state in terms of football in the coming years.

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