The coach who shaped me, IM Vijayan pays tribute to late TK Chathunni

Vijayan and Coutinho with Chathunni
Former Indian captains I M Vijayan and Bruno Coutinho with T K Chathunni during the release of the coach's autobiography in Thrissur in 2019. Photo: Manorama Archives

Former Indian football team captain I M Vijayan remembers his first coach T K Chathunni, who passed away in Kochi on Wednesday.

"Chathunni sir was my first coach, but to me he was more than just a mentor whose guidance extended beyond the playing field. 

He was the one who unearthed and nurtured I M Vijayan, the footballer. The turning point in my life came at the age of 12 when I, holding my father's hand, walked into a football training camp organised by Chathunni sir in Thrissur. Footballer I M Vijayan was born out of that three-year-long camp where Chathunni sir pushed me to my limits and made me realise my true potential. 

He was there when I laced a football boot for the first time. It was under his watchful eyes that I learned the nuances of the beautiful game. 

There were around 30 trainees in that camp who were selected through trials, but Chathunni sir always kept a keen eye on me. Whenever I took to a football field in the latter part of my life, I always benefited from that special care and guidance. 

The one skill that I learned and perfected with his help was the scissor kick.  On a rainy day, he saw me trying to do that kick on the training ground. Taking note of it, he took me to a nearby jumping pit and asked me to throw the body backward up into the air and kick the ball. The pit was wet, but we kept practising that particular kick. During rainy days, we made it a habit to try out that difficult shot. Eventually I mastered it and got an opportunity to showcase that skill during the final of the Scissors Cup against Peerless FC in Kozhikode in 1995.

During my footballing journey, I have scored many goals for various clubs and the country, including the aforementioned one, and all of them were testaments to Chathunni sir's exceptional coaching skills. 

Apart from fostering my growth as a footballer, he also played a key role in taking me to the Kerala Police football team. I was a member of the squad when Kerala Police won their maiden Federation Cup title in 1990 under Chathunni sir's guidance. 

Adieu dear coach, your memory will forever be with me."

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