I. M. Vijayan: 'Sunil Chhetri is irreplaceable'

Two clever strikers turned all-rounders, one a lean legend and the other a chunky match-winner, they played together in camps, never for the same national squad.

“India does not have a striker of his (Chhetri's) quality, this is reality. There is no player who can replace him in that position,” said Vijayan.   -  : PRASHANT NAKWE

I. M. Vijayan and Sunil Chhetri on the same team, lurking around the box would have been a nightmare for goalkeepers. Two clever strikers turned all-rounders, one a lean legend and the other a chunky match-winner, they played together in camps, never for the same national squad. “By the time he got in, I had retired,” pointed out the former, in the city for Team India captain’s 100 India match.

The 2003 Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad was Vijayan’s last international competition. Chhetri took a bow at the 2004 SAF Games in Islamabad, netting on debut and scored thrice in his 99th game for India against Chinese Taipei as well. “India does not have a striker of his quality, this is reality. There is no player who can replace him in that position,” said Vijayan, reputed for cunning strikes on target.

The football icon admitted he thought about coming for a former colleague’s milestone match after seeing a video put out by the latter. “I saw Chhetri’s video and really liked it, so decided to show my appreciation of his contribution for India by being present at the stadium for the landmark game.”

The Mumbai Football Arena hosted the India versus Kenya tie.

Vijayan, famous for creating a goal out of nowhere, added to his repertoire by scoring from free-kicks and could win matches on his own: “Chhetri can be called an all-rounder, he can score from free-kicks, he is effective even when playing deep and is able to handle the team capably. He is all class as a player, a great person, which is the best part about him.” 

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