For Inivalappil Mani Vijayan, Kerala’s most celebrated footballer, who turned 50 on Thursday, age is just a number. And for him there is no life away from the beautiful game as he continues to defy the age showing dazzling skills and athleticism on the field, whether coming on as substitute for Kerala Police or playing in the veterans league. He was born on 25 April 1969 and is the most popular professional Indian football player in Kerala. Playing in the striker position, he formed a successful attacking partnership with Bhaichung Bhutia for the Indian national team in the late nineties and early 2000s. Vijayan was crowned Indian Player of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 1999, the first player to win the award multiple times.
Nicknamed the Black Buck for his exploits on Kolkata Maidan, Vijayan found fame playing for Kolkata clubs. He is a winner of the coveted Arjuna Award and captained India before he retired on a high after the Afro-Asian Games in 2003. After retirement, Vijayan dabbled in films making his debut in national award winning film Santham directed by Jayaraj. He also tried his hands in coaching though with little success. Vijayan, a circle inspector with the Kerala Police now, continues to inspire generations of footballers.