I. M. Vijayan is a former Indian footballer turned actor who also serves as a member of the technical committee of the AIFF. He was widely regarded for his aggressive style of play and won numerous awards during his illustrious career. Playing as a striker, he captained the Indian national football team and formed one of the most formidable partnerships with Bhaichung Bhutia. Vijayan instantly became a fan favorite in the domestic league after joining the Kerala Police football club. It did not take long for him to earn his first international cap. Popularly known for his athletic nature and skills, he was a complete forward who scored some brilliant goals in his career. He also made headlines by scoring one of the fastest goals in international football when he scored a goal against Bhutan in the 1999 SAF Games just after 12 seconds from kickoff. He was also capable of netting acrobatic goals and is widely regarded for some of them. After retiring from professional football, he became an actor and has been part of movies both in Malayalam and Tamil.
Inivalappil Mani Vijayan was born on Friday, 25 April 1969 (age 53 years, as of 2022) in Thrissur, Kerala, India. He started his life from humble beginnings and became a soda seller to support his family. He attended the Church Mission Society High School, Thrissur, but he was never academically inclined. However, he showed a strong passion for football from an early age . This passion for the game he developed finally got recognized when Mr. Jose Paramban noticed him. Vijayan credits Jose as the monumental person in I. M. Vijayan becoming a professional footballer. In an emotional social media post, he recalled Jose taking him to the football selections and how Paramban helped him by arranging travel facilities and accompanying him to fulfill his dream of watching the Nehru cup. His journey from being a soda seller at the Thrissur Municipal Corporation Stadium, who earned 10 paise per bottle, to becoming the highest-paid player in Indian club football was the result of his hard work and dedication. It was the then DGP of Kerala, M.K. Joseph, who noticed Vijayan and helped him to get on the Kerala Police football team at the age of just 17. He took this chance and gave it everything he had and made history. He has recalled joining and staying at the Kerala Police camp as the moment that became the turning point for his career .
A teenage photo of I. M. Vijayan
Height (approx.): 5′ 11″
Weight (approx.): 69 kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
I. M. Vijayan belongs to a modest Malayali family in Thrissur.
Parents & Siblings
He had to work from an very early age as the family had no other income. His professional football career provided him the much needed financial stability, and he revealed in an interview that he gave his first-ever salary as a footballer to his mother, who used to collect scrap and waste papers from nearby homes to meet the ends.
Wife & Children
He is married to Raji Vijayan, who understands her husband’s love for the game and unconditionally supports him.
I. M. Vijayan with his wife Raji Vijayan
His son Aromal works as a performance analyst at Gokulam Kerala FC.
I. M. Vijayan with his son Aromal
During his professional career, he received offers from countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, but he spent his entire career playing in India. After hanging up his boots in 2006, he was part of the Gokulam Kerala’s futsal team for the 2020-2021 season. Post-retirement, he shifted his focus to the football school he started in Thrissur. He joined the Calcutta premier division side Southern Samity as their coach. In 2017, he was appointed as the national observer for football by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India. On September 2022, he was appointed as a member of the technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
I.M. Vijayan with the president of the Asian Football Confederation Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa
At the age of 17, he got selected for the Kerala Police football club. Having shown a remarkable passion for football from a young age, he wasted no time showing his worth. He became a fan favorite quickly, and many clubs wanted to sign him. The 1989 Quilon Nationals, turned out to be an important event for him. His outstanding performances did not go in vain, as he was able to impress the national football selection committee. From there, it did not take long for him to be a part of the national football team. He spent four years at the Kerala Police club till 1991, eventually leaving them to join Mohun Bagan. The fans were upset with him for leaving them. However, he was welcomed with open arms when he rejoined them in 1992. It was his final season for the Kerala Police club, he left them the next year after spending a total of 5 seasons with the club. His time with the Police club was so successful that he still remains a fan-favorite for many who grew up idolizing him. In 2021, he was appointed as the director of the Kerala Police Football Academy under the Malabar Special Police in order to attract more youngsters to the game and nurture them properly.
I.M. Vijayan scouting and training with the kids
He joined Mohun Bagan from the Kerala Police club in 1991, and the transfer made headlines in Kerala. The fans were furious with him for leaving them for another club, as he was one of the most popular players in the domestic league. I M Vijayan has recalled his decision to join the Kolkata-based team was indeed the best choice he took as it gave him financial security that he always lacked. He was also able to emulate his brilliant performances for Mohun Bagan too. However, his first stint at the Kolkata-based club lasted only one season as he left them to rejoin his former team in 1992. However, he returned to Mohun Bagan in 1993 and played for them till 1994, his third stint for the club was in 1998 when he signed for them after leaving FC Kochin. He played only for one season at Mohun Bagan and left them in 1999.
JCT Mills Phagwara
Vijayan first joined JCT in 1994 after completing his transfer from Mohun Bagan. He stayed with the club for three seasons till 1997 and left them to join FC Kochin. He returned to the club in 2002 and was part of the squad for the next two seasons and left them in 2004 after signing a contract with Churchill Brothers S.C.
He joined the Kerala-based club in 1997 after leaving JCT and played for one season with them during his first stint. During his time with the team in his first season, he won the Durand Cup and had a memorable campaign. After the first season, he left them in 1998 and returned back to the club in 1999. He played for them until 2001 which marked his final season for the club and left them in 2002.
Churchill Brothers S.C
He signed with the Goa-based club in 2004 and was part of their squad for the following season. His time at Churchill Brothers S.C. was brief as he left them to join East Bengal in 2005.
He joined East Bengal in 2005 and this was his final club as he bid farewell to professional football in 2006. He thus played for both the Kolkata-based clubs respectively, which share almost a 100-year-old rivalry between them.
I.M. Vijayan playing for East Bengal F.C.
In 1989, I. M. Vijayan made his debut for the Indian national football team and went on to represent the nation in 83 matches and score 40 goals over a career that lasted more than a decade.
I. M. Vijayan with Bhaichung Bhutia playing for Indian national team
According to FIFA statistics, the numbers are 71 matches and 32 goals. He has represented India in the FIFA World Qualifiers, Nehru Cup, Pre – Olympics, SAFF Championship, and SAF Games. He has also captained his national side. The majestic duo of him and Bhaichung Bhutia were always a threat to the opposition as they struggled to stop these two. He is a three-time SAFF Champion with the Indian national football team and also was a part of the national team when they won the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in the South Asian Games in the years 1995, 1993, and 1999 respectively. He announced that the Afro-Asian Games of 2003 will be his last ever international tournament after consulting with the then-Indian coach Stephen Constantine, he firmly believed that it was time for him to make way for the youngsters even though his compatriots discouraged his decision. He ended the tournament as the top scorer and put an end to his international career in the most fitting way.
After announcing his retirement from professional football, he turned to the film industry. Since then, he has appeared in various films both in Malayalam and Tamil. The movie titled ‘Mmmmm’ released in 2021, was a milestone as it helped him in expressing his acting caliber and it was widely appreciated by the critics and was shortlisted for the Oscar awards. In 2018, he announced that together with his friends he is planning to launch his own production company titled ‘Big Daddy Entertainment’.
I.M Vijayan to launch film production company
He has been a part of more than 18 Malayalam movies. Such as ‘Shantham’ directed by Jayaraj which won the Swarna Kamal Award for Best Feature Film at the 48th National Film Awards of 2001. Vijayan was also part of ‘Mmmmm’ a Malayalam film, which won the Best film award at 2021 Paris Film Festival. He has also been part of films such as Akashathile Paravakal(2001), Quotation(2004), Ben Johnson(2005) Shyaamam(2006), Mahasamudram(2006), Kisan(2006), Asuravithu (2012), Bachelor Party(2012), The Great Father(2017), Abrahaminte Santhathikal(2018), Mythily Veendum Varunnu(2017), Prakruthi(2019), Porinju Mariam Jose(2019) and Muddy(2021). Muddy was India’s first off-road mud race based movie. He has fondly recalled his experience working with Mammootty and Mohanlal, two of the best actors in the industry, and, how welcoming they were in an interview.
He has acted in 5-Tamil movies. Namely, Thimiru(2006), Komban(2015), Gethu(2016), Ganesha Meendum Santhipom(2019) and Bigil(2019). During his time in the Tamil industry, he has worked with superstars like Vijay, Karthi, and Vishal.
I. M. Vijayan joined Muktijoddha Sangsad KC, Bangladeshi, Dhaka Premier Division League club on August 2001 and played five matches for them. But allegations regarding the lack of an ITC (International Transfer Certificate) submitted upon his return to the domestic league in India led to the inquiry of AIFF and he was fined a sum of 50,000 rupees. He later accepted the disciplinary action and agreed to pay the sum.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- He was the recipient of the 2003 Arjuna Award. The second-highest honor given in the field of sports and games for outstanding performance.
I.M. Vijayan receiving the Arjuna Award from Dr. A.P.J. Kalam
- He became the first person to win the AIFF Player of the Year Award three times when he won them in 1992, 1997, and finally in 2000.
- He was named the best player in the Nehru Cup tournament of 1993.
- In 2020 the AIFF confirmed that they had recommended I M Vijayan for the Padma Shri which is the fourth-highest civilian award in India.
- For his contributions to football, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Northern State Medical University, Arkhangelsk, Russia.
- He was promoted as the Assistant Commandant of Kerala Police in 2021.
I am glad to inform you all that I have been promoted as Assistant Commandant of Kerala Police. pic.twitter.com/aRN8ZsrtUB
— I M Vijayan (@IMVijayan1) February 20, 2021
- Footballer: Diego Maradona
- By the time he was selected for the Kerala Police club he was just 17 years and 6 months old. He couldn’t play for the team unless he had a job in the force and to get a job he had to turn 18. He was suggested to wait for 6 months and they promised that he would be appointed as soon as he turned 18. He had his doubts but ultimately he decided to stay at the camp and then went on to become one of the greatest players India has ever seen.
- Gokulam Kerala FC’s crest was officially unveiled by I M Vijayan and Pinarayi Vijayan on January 2017. Gokulam is a professional football club playing in the I-League.
- In 2012, I. M. Vijayan shared a stage and played ball with soccer icon Diego Maradona in Kannur, Kerala. He confessed that the few minutes he spent with Maradona were magical.
- In a recent interview, Vijayan revealed that he would love to watch Lionel Messi wins the World Cup and that he supports Argentina in the competition. He also revealed that initially he supported Brazil and Pele, but after watching Maradona he switched teams.