Kerala pays homage to its fondson

As she looked at V. P. Sathyan's face for one last time, P. T. Usha couldn't control herself. She cried. As did the sporting fraternity of Kerala on July 19, when the former Indian football captain's body was brought from Chennai to his ancestral home at Mekkunnu, near Thalassery.

"When I met for Sathyan for the last time, during Sportstar's relaunch function in Chennai last January, we had talked for a long time and I had invited him to my athletics school at Payyoli," she recalled. "And I have known Sathyan from the time he was a young boy; we studied at the same school, Muncipal High School at Kannur." Usha was among the thousands of Keralites who paid homage to Sathyan on his final journey back home. Huge crowds gathered at Kozhikode, Malappuram and Thalassery where the body was kept for about an hour each. The vehicle carrying the body had stopped at places like Palakkad and Koyilandy, where too his fans came in large numbers to pay their respects to one of the finest Indian defenders of our time.

Perhaps the largest gathering was at Kozhikode, where the body was laid out at the Kozhikode District Football Association office, which was barely 100 m away from the Corporation Stadium. A ground where, till a few years ago, Sathyan used to tackle the finest of forwards, defending the Kerala Police goal. I. M. Vijayan remains his best-known teammate.

"At Kozhikode, I didn't look at Sathyan's body; I couldn't bear it," said Vijayan. "He was like an elder brother to me. We played for the Indian, Kerala, Kerala Police and Mohun Bagan teams. I think I must have played with him in the Indian team more than anybody else. And he played a key role in introducing me to the professional club football of Kolkata, where I used to stay in his apartment. Once he told me that he would buy me a bike if I scored three goals against East Bengal; I could score only two, but he bought me a scooter. It is still there in Kolkata, with a friend of mine."

P. K. Ajith Kumar