Dubai: Sunil Chettri, Indian football’s biggest ambassador after Baichung Bhutia, got a big thumbs-up for his longevity as a player from an iconic performer of his genereation - I.M.Vijayan.
“I follow your matches and the dedication and resolve with which you play for your club and country is brilliant. The number of matches you have played for India and the number of goals you have scored - it’s a huge achievement,” said Vijayan, one of India’s finest strikers who ruled the roost in the Nineties as well into the new millennium.
Interacting at a Instagram live chat on the handle of All India Football Federation, the pair was effusive in complimenting each other.
“I have spoken to many youngsters and upcoming players including Sahal (Abdul Samad) and Ashique (Kuruniyan), and I tell them to look at you. The way you play and the things you do - I ask them to take you as an example,” Vijayan continued.
Chhetri, on his part, spoke about Vijayan’s humility as well and mentioned that he played football “purely” for the love of the sport. “If you want to see a humble example of a superstar, here it is (Vijayan). If you want to see someone who played the game purely because he loved it, here it is. If you want to see someone who is brilliant in every way and yet so down-to-earth, here it is,” Chhetri told the viewers.
Digging into his memory of watching one special Vijayan goal in 2005, the current Indian captain said: “Vijayan was playing for Churchill Brothers at the time. I was watching the game and he came on a substitute. He didn’t look quite fit but there was a cross and there were two defenders but he took the ball on his chest and back-volleyed it into the top corner from outside the penalty box.”
“The way he used to score goals used to amaze everyone. He was an absolute pleasure to watch. He is by far the most skillful and innovative player I have seen,” Chhetri added.
Now 51, Vijayan has a simple word of advice for the upcoming youngsters. “It is a simple thing. Life is short and your football-playing time is short. You play football with your feet but you should not let it go to your head - otherwise, it can be a dangerous fall,” added one of Kerala’s biggest sporting ambassadors.