An eye for goal

THULASI KAKKAT

The 25-year-old was in sparkling form in the latest I-League season, scoring seven goals for Prayag United, to become the leading Indian scorer in the league. By P.K. Ajith Kumar.

A poster of I. M. Vijayan, scoring that stunner of a back-volleyed goal in the final of Scissors Cup international tournament at the Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode in 1996, adorns the wall of C. K. Vineeth’s bedroom for many years now. He was in school back then and little did he imagine that he would one day play on the very grounds as his idol.

The 25-year-old was in sparkling form in the latest I-League season, scoring seven goals for Prayag United, to become the leading Indian scorer in the league. He had scored eight the season before for Kerala side Chirag United, playing as a midfielder.

“I always wanted to be a striker, but somehow ended up in the midfield as there were always more experienced forwards in all the teams I have played so far. I don’t have regrets though, as I have been able to score fairly consistently. I enjoyed playing alongside Ranti Martins for Prayag this season. We finished fourth, which is not bad, but it could have been better,” says Vineeth.

Looking back at the recently-concluded I-League, he says the hat-trick against Air India was the highlight of his campaign. He had scored his three goals within a space of just 11 minutes.

Vineeth, hailing from Vengad in Kannur district, had also made his debut for the national side, earlier this year, in a friendly against Palestine in Kochi. “That truly was a dream coming true. To play for India is something I always wanted. I was also fortunate to play for the country in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Myanmar,” he says. Vineeth became serious about football after he joined the Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kasaragod, for his higher secondary education.

“I was trained by the SAI coach Velayudhan. I am also indebted to A. M. Sreedharan, who coached me at Viva Kerala,” says Vineeth, who is a big fan of England and Liverpool midfield general Steven Gerrard.