July 12, 2015 12:32:23 am
THE BODY feints, the interchange of passes were all there, only the pace has dropped with age. And instead of the ball at his feet, these days he is more comfortable with it in his hands. The moment one talks of I.M. Vijayan, the image which comes to mind is that of a scrawny, long-limbed player in an ill-fitting jersey, dribbling, stopping, turning and in general fooling around with the defence while scoring some dazzling goals for club and country, including one of the fastest in world football.
One can’t also help but wonder, with a tinge of remorse, what he could have achieved with a bit more discipline.
But all that is in the past. Having retired from the game for close to a decade, the 46-year-old Vijayan has now turned his attention to basketball.
This week he won his first title when Thrissur district defeated Kottayam in the final of the All Kerala Veterans Basketball Tournament.
“I started playing basketball when I joined Kerala Police in 1986. I would also play a bit of volleyball. But then football took over and I forgot everything,” Vijayan said.
Ever since returning to the Kerala Police force a few years back, Vijayan has rekindled his affair with basketball.
In between carrying out his duty as a Circle Inspector in Palakkad, where he is posted, and training children at the football academy run by Kerala Police, Vijayan would turn up for practice every weekend at the indoor stadium in Thrissur.
“For the last couple of years he has been training with us every Saturday-Sunday morning at the indoor stadium,” said former India basketball player and Customs coach Sunny Thomas, who scored 34 points in Thrissur’s 69-55 win over Kottayam in the final. “Vijayan was a great football player but he could have excelled in other sports as well if he tried,” Thomas said.
“As far his basketball skills are concerned, he may not be outstanding, but he is good.” Vijayan didn’t score any points for his team but would provide vital support during the entire tournament. He would come in as a substitute and help pick up the rebounds, Thomas explained.
“That’s because of my height,” Vijayan would say. Not one to gloat over his achievements, the three-time AIFF Player of the Year revealed that he also plays basketball during the inter-battalion tournaments of Kerala Police. Ask him about whether, during his days as a football player, he had ever dreamt of switching over to basketball, and pat comes the reply. “Never. Football was my first love, how could I ever think of dumping it.”
In between playing and teaching kids, Vijayan is also busy shooting for his next film. He already has a release this year, the Tamil action-drama Komban, which has him playing a villain. His next is another Tamil film Geethu, which has Udhayanidhi Stalin, grandson of M Karunadhi, as one of the stars.
Does he miss playing football, you ask, knowing surely that he would have been a huge hit even in the age of ISL. “Not really. I play with Kerala Police whenever I get the time. And then I am also coaching the kids. So I am pretty happy.”
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