Kolkata: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has decided to send legendary footballer I M Vijayan's name for Padma Shri Award to the sports ministry, a top official has said.
Former Indian captain Vijayan, 51, was the recipient of Arjuna Award in 2003. A three-time AIFF player of the year, Vijayan is one of the most skillful footballers the country has ever produced.
The Padma Shri is the fourth-highest civilian honour after the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan.
Vijayan played 79 matches for India between 1992 and 2003, and scored 40 goals. The Thrissur-born striker formed a prolific partnership for India alongside Baichung Bhutia.
Vijayan was part of the victorious Indian team in the 1999 South Asian Football Federation Cup and scored one of the fastest international goals in history during the tournament, finding the back of the the net against Bhutan after just 12 seconds.
Vijayan also finished as the top scorer in the Afro-Asian Games event held in India in 2003 with four goals. Vijayan formally retired from international football after the Afro-Asian Games of 2003.
At the club level, some of Vijayan's best performances early on in his career came in a Kerala Police football club shirt, his first team.
Vijayan was able to impress the national football fraternity very soon with his impeccable skills and highly aggressive style of playing.
Vijayan also played for Kolkata heavyweights Mohun Bagan and East Bengal besides JCT and FC Kochin.
After calling it a day from football, Vijayan started his acting career and played the lead role in the Malayalam film 'Shantham'. He has acted in more than 20 films, in Malayalam and Tamil.
Recently during an Instagram chat, iconic current India captain Sunil Chhetri, who was the recipient of the Padma Shri Award in 2019, said he wished he could play with Vijayan.
"If you want to see a humble example of a superstar, here it is (Vijayan). If you want to see someone who played the game purely because he loved it, here it is. If you want to see someone who is brilliant in every way and yet so down-to-earth, here it is," Chhetri had said pointing to Vijayan during the chat.
The Sports Ministry had on June 3 extended the deadline for submission of applications for the National Sports Awards till June 22. The ministry had also allowed the sportspersons to file their nomination by self application considering the difficulties faced by them in "getting the recommendation of the prescribed authorities/persons due to country-wide lockdown on account of COVID-19 pandemic."