New Delhi: Former India captain V. P. Sathyan, 41, who died under tragic and mysterious circumstances near Chennai on Tuesday was a footballer who perhaps never received his due.
While his other teammates in the then crack Kerala team, such as I.M. Vijayan and Jo Paul Ancheri, rose to become glamour boys of Indian football, Sathyan somehow remained the unsung hero.
But then, no one expected the ‘iron wall’ of the Indian national team for more than 10 years to fall in such a manner. While the police in Chennai said he was run over by a suburban train while trying to cross the track at Pallavaram around 11 this morning, eyewitnesses were convinced that the once dreaded defender deliberately jumped on to the track to end his life.
What forced the ever-smiling footballer to take such an extreme step is not yet known, but Tamil Nadu Football Association sources said that there were four suicide notes in his pocket. While two were addressed to his two colleagues in office, one was addressed to a top official of the All India Football Federation.
The last of the notes was addressed to the media ' a request to treat his death with restrain and a thank you for all that was written about him during his playing days.
His close friends are still in a state of shock and refuse to believe the whole incident. But there are strong indications that he was preparing himself for the tragic end.
He left house on Saturday on the pretext of going to Kerala, but never left Chennai for two days. There is a feeling in certain quarters that he was under great financial constraint and was desperately looking for money from different sources.
No one knows why Sathyan, a well placed bank officer, needed so much money. Some say he required it to solve family problems while others attribute it to his bad habits.
What actually led the best defender and the national captain of the Nineties to death may never be clear, but Indian football has certainly lost a great figure.
The only regret is that though he led India for more than five years at a stretch, Sathyan never really received the recognition he should have for his contribution to Indian football.
All these years, no one really talked and discussed the classic and world-class goal he scored against South Korea in 1986 in Merdeka. A rookie defender then, Sathyan took India to the quarter-finals with a terrific 35-yard shot that had both his teammates and rivals completely stunned.
Sathyan himself never regretted it, leave alone talking about his achievements.
He never made his sorrow public and even his closest friends knew nothing about it. Like his playing days, he chose to fight it out alone.
• Born: April 29, 1965 in Kannur
• Position: Stopper-back/midfielder
• Started career with Spirited Youth Club (1982)
• Played for Lucky Star Club (1983)
• Joined Kerala Police 1984
• Joined Mohun Bagan in 1992-93 for two seasons.
• Back with Kerala Police in 1994-95
• Joined Indian Bank in 1996
Domestic career highlights
• Was a key member of Kerala Police that won back-to-back Federation Cup titles in 1989-90, 1990-91. Also won Federation Cup with Mohun Bagan in 1994.
• Led Kerala to Santosh Trophy triumph in 1992
• AIFF Player of the Year in 1995
International career highlights
• First came into limelight during the Zonal camp in Madras (now Chennai) in 1985.
• First played for India in 1985 SAF Games in Dhaka.
• Represented India in Merdeka tournament and Asian Games in 1986
• Gold medal in 1987 SAF Games in Calcutta
• Led in the World Cup qualifiers in 1991 (Beirut and Seoul)
• Led in the 1993 Nehru Cup in Chennai
• Led in the 1994 Independence Cup in Doha
• Captain of the gold-medal winning team in 1995 SAF Games in Chennai
• Led in the 1995 Bristol SAFF Cup in Colombo
• Retired in March 1997
Coach of the Indian Bank team from 2001
Assistant coach of the Indian team in 2002