: Just a day before the Santosh Trophy kicks off in Kochi, the Kerala Football Association (KFA) was considering handing out a suspension to its biggest star, former India captain I.M. Vijayan.
Vijayan had played an exhibition game at Perumbavur a couple of days ago as part of the ‘Kerala Sevens’ team on the opening day of the Sevens Premier League, which the KFA sees as an unauthorised event since it doesn’t come under its umbrella.
The Perumbavur event (in Ernakulam District), the dates of which also clash with the Santosh Trophy’s Kochi leg, is held under the banner of the Kerala Sevens Football Association, which organises more than 60 sevens tournaments every season, and even includes a team from Kolkata.
“We have to take action if Vijayan is a KFA-registered player,” said K.M.I. Mather, the KFA President, on Wednesday.
“He played for Kerala Police in the State inter-club championship at Malappuram (in December),” said P. Anilkumar, the KFA General Secretary. Anilkumar also said a notice would be sent to Vijayan in this regard. A suspension, in such a case, is likely to run to six months.
The KFA had been quick to warn and suspend players who had been ‘caught’ playing in unauthorised sevens tournaments – and there are plenty of them being played in the districts like Malappuram and Kozhikode – but it had appeared to go soft on the Vijayan issue.
Around this time last year, the KFA had made a hue and cry over Vijayan playing in a friendly game against a visiting South Korean side Ansan Hallelujah FC – the State association saw it as an unauthorised game as the national body AIFF was not aware of the foreign team’s arrival in the country – but ultimately, it was swept under the carpet.
Meanwhile, Vijayan explained on Wednesday that he was not playing in the actual sevens tournament but only in a celebrity game on the event’s opening day.
“It was not a sevens tournament but just a celebrity match featuring many retired Indian players. And I was not the only player there, Jo Paul (Ancheri), Suresh and others were also there,” he said. “I will not be playing in the regular event (he used to play for Thrissur-based Sastha Medicals earlier). My leg is not in good shape. I’ve not played for a long time.”
Vijayan saw the futility of KFA’s act too.
“There is no point in suspending me, a 43-year-old. I’m not going to play for the State or the country,” said the Kerala Police star. “It’s okay if you’re catching youngsters who are likely to play in the Nationals or for the country. What do they achieve by catching me?”
He also revealed that almost everybody in the State is into sevens. “They get good money. If you look at any player in the State, they will all be playing sevens.”