‘Sevens football helps me retain my passion for the game’

I believe the authorities should actually encourage sevens football, especially now, when the sport is struggling in Kerala. As a footballer, you could only get better by playing in sevens.

I. M. Vijayan... “I have always been well paid in sevens football. But more than money, it is the sheer fun I get from playing the sevens tournaments that matters to me.”   -  K. V. Srinivasan

Sevens football has played a significant role in making me the international player I became. I began playing in sevens tournaments when I was a teenager, and never stopped.

I have played in some eight games this season. Which means I have been playing sevens football for more than three decades.

It would be no exaggeration to say that it is sevens football that helps me retain my passion for the game. I love the very atmosphere of sevens football. It is of course mostly in Malappuram that I have played. You get the best crowds for football there: they are knowledgeable and extremely passionate.

While I was more active as a footballer, I used to play somewhere between 30 and 40 games during a sevens season. For more than 15 years, I played for Black-and-White, Kozhikode.

This year, I represented Hunters, Koothuparamba. At a tournament in Palakkad, Baichung Bhutia also played, and he was in for a huge surprise.

“I should have played in these tournaments before,” Baichung told me. “I never knew it was such an amazing form of football.”

He is of course not the only big star of India that has played in sevens. Many of my team-mates in the national team have featured in those tournaments regularly.

I have had some troubles in playing them, as well. The Kerala Football Association had issued me a show cause notice for playing in sevens football. I believe the authorities should actually encourage sevens football, especially now, when the sport is struggling in Kerala. As a footballer, you could only get better by playing in sevens.

And yes, there is serious money, too. I have always been well paid in sevens football. But more than money, it is the sheer fun I get from playing the sevens tournaments that matters to me.

(As told to P. K. Ajith Kumar)