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IM Vijayan – The story of an unsung hero who graced Indian football

The story of IM Vijayan from a soda seller to a National footballer and later a cine actor is nothing less than a thrilling hyper coaster jaunt. Enjoy this stunning tale of an ardent striker of the Indian Football Team.

Last updated: 12.06.2020
IM Vijayan | Sports Social Blog

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Fondly called Black Buck or Kalo Harin, Inivalappil Mani Vijayan (aka) I.M Vijayan is a former Indian professional football player. He always stayed away from the limelight but he was undoubtedly an amazing striker who played an indispensable role in Indian football both as a player and as a coach. He became the first person to be crowned thrice the Indian Player of the Year in 1993, 1997, and 1999. His talent was widely appreciated across the world, especially from the clubs in Malaysia and Thailand.


Vijayan was born on 25 April 1969 at Kerala. Born in a relatively poor family, he sold soda bottles to aid his family’s financial needs. The game of football had fascinated him at a very young age and his performances were the talk of the town. His overflowing passion for the game caught the attention of the then Kerala DGP. This helped him gain a place in the Kerala Police Football Club at the tender age of 17. That laid the foundation for his club-level football history.


Distinguished Club Career

Playing for the club, his aggressive style and extraordinary performance at Quilon Nationals in 1987  was talked about among the members of the national football community. He switched to Mohun Bagan in 1991 and returned to Kerala Police in 1992. He joined Mohun Bagan the next year and played for JCT Mills Fagwara (Phagwara) from 1994 until 1997. He played for one year representing FC Kochin before he switched to Mohun Began the next year and moved back to FC Kochin in 1999. He went on to play for several other professional clubs including JCT Mills, Churchill Brothers S.C and East Bengal Club. His final professional football club was East Bengal which he left in 2006. His fame spread across the globe. He was offered to play for clubs in Malaysia and Thailand but he rejected them because he did not want to cheat his fans and fellow players who loved and adored him. Talking about that incident to the Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri in an Instagram chat, Vijayan revealed that he wanted to stay in India

“I wanted to stay in India. At that time, I was at Mohun Bagan and the fans loved me so much. I also had fellow players from Kerala in the team, so I felt if I left, I would cheat the fans and fellow professionals and that would be a big problem. So, I decided to stay.”

He also added that maybe if he had many people from whom he could have sought advice, anything could have happened. However, he said that he regrets nothing.

Talking about the clubs he told that JCT club treated him in the best possible way and took complete care of him.

“No club treated me the way JCT did. They took complete care of me. So, when Sukhi sir asked me to join again, I signed without reading the terms. I knew that if he was offering, it would be the right price. I had full faith in him,” Vijayan said in the chat.

International Progress

His remarkable performances at the various clubs earned him a spot on the national team. In 1989, he made his debut for India. He represented the country in the Nehru Cup, Pre-Olympics, Pre-World Cup, South Asian Football Federation (SAAF) Cup, and SAF games. His raw-boned figure, aggressive style, and unorthodox training schedules can prove to be illusive. He was a great runner and sharp striker who was well known for dazzling passes, free-kick, and overhead kick. In the SAFF Cup, 1999, he scored the country’s fastest goal when he hit a goal in 12 seconds playing against Bhutan. He was a top scorer with four goals in 2003 in the Afro-Asian Games.  He retired after that tournament in 2003. In his years of international career, he scored 40 goals in 79 games and is officially acknowledged for 29 goals in 66 games.

Talking about his national days with Sunil, he recalled an incident when in the national team. He and Joe Paul Ancheri went to watch a movie on a match day. The match was advanced by a few hours and they had only 15 minutes to get ready. They went on to win the match but he does not recommend other footballers to follow this. 

Life in the cinema

His biographical film was titled Kalo Hiran (Black Buck) referring to his famous nickname. The movie was directed by Cherian Joseph. Post his retirement, he explored the field of cinema. He made his debut in the industry through the film Shantham in which he played the lead role. He went on to act in movies like Thimiru, Gethu, Mythili Veendum Varunnu, Bigil and Muddy.

Post-retirement life

He was into politics as a member of the National Congress. He opened a football school in Thrissur and concentrated on assisting the young and passionate minds. He was a coach for the Southern Samity, a division side in the Calcutta Football League. In 2017, he was appointed the national observer for football. He also announced that he is starting a film production house.


An amazingly skilled yet less known player during his national days, he had a distaste for warm-ups. He used to avoid the warm-up sessions but his ability to play exceptionally well at the games helped the coaches not fret over it. He was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2003. He became the first person to be crowned thrice the Indian Player of the Year in 1993, 1997, and 1999. He has scored one of the fastest International goals ever in just 12 seconds.

Fit even in his fifties, he outplayed young players who were half of his age in the Champions League 2019. His tremendous skill and performance on the field is just getting better with age!!


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