Soda seller turned Indian Football legend, Inivalappil Mani Vijayan has made people believe that nothing is impossible. Affectionately called, Kalo Harin, he has played in the striker position for the Indian National Team in the late nineties and early twenties. He had a distinguished club career as he played for various prestigious clubs of India, and then as a coach. He was the captain of the Indian team from 2000 to 2004. However, his journey to success was not that easy.
Born to a Dalit family in Thrissur, Kerela, Vijayan had to sell soda bottles in the Thrissur Municipal Corporation Stadium to support his family. He watched games in this stadium as a youngster with his father who was the first football lover that he knew.
— I M Vijayan (@IMVijayan1) September 29, 2019
The turning point of his career was when GP MK Joseph selected him for the Kerala Police team when he was a teenager. He soon earned his place in the first team and became a superstar within a short period.
At the age of 17, he joined the Kerala Police football club. He played for the club till 1991 and his performances earned him a place in the national side in 1989. Between 1989 to 2004, the legend scored 40 goals in 79 games for India, though officially he is credited with 29 in 66.
In 1992, he went on to win the first-ever AIFF (All India Football Association) player of the year award. He earned this award two more times throughout his career. Vijayan played several tournaments such as Nehru Cup, pre-Olympics, pre-World Cup, SAAF Cup, and SAF Games.
Along with Bhiachung Bhutia, he formed one of the deadliest combos on the field. In 1999, he netted one of the fastest goals in history when he scored a goal in just 12 seconds vs Bhutan in the SAFF Cup.
With Baichug and Asif pic.twitter.com/P4UHM7iiuM
— I M Vijayan (@IMVijayan1) June 30, 2020
After he retired from international football, he set up a football academy to train young players in his home town. He was also appointed as the National Observer for football by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports after his retirement. His biopic was released in 1998 named Kalo Hiran which referred to his nickname. After retirement, Vijayan had an active acting career and acted in over 20 Malayalam & Tamil movies.
He is a deserving candidate for the Padma Shri Award for which he was nominated this year. His inspiring career is a tale to pass on to the next generation.
Stay Rackonnected and learn more about sports