Not many are aware that football was once a very popular sport in India; in fact, the Indian national football team was very successful in the 1950s 60s. Football is now becoming popular among the younger generations of India. Here is the list of 5 greatest Indian footballers of all time:
He was one of the best defenders in the history of Indian Football. A commanding presence in defense, Pal, is called “Chiner Pracheer” (The Wall of China). He played for Mohun Bagan and captained the club for 5 years. He has a statue named after him in Kolkata. In 1924, he was appointed as the captain of the Indian National team. The legend has awarded with Padma Shri in 1962.
Inivalappil Mani Vijayan, alongside Bhaichung Bhutia, was the toast of Indian football in the late 90s and 2000s as they both formed a successful striking partnership. He represented various clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, FC Kochin, etc. Vijayan scored 40 goals in his 79 appearances for India. He holds the record of the third-fastest goal in International Football, where he scored in just 12 seconds against Bhutan. Vijayan captained the Indian National team and won the Indian Player of the Year 3 times. At a point, in his career, he was the highest-paid footballer in India.
Pradip Kumar Banerjee was a right-winger who starred in the 60s. He captained India at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and the 1962 Asian Games – where the nation won a gold medal. He was capped 84 times and scored 65 goals. FIFA named him the Indian footballer of the 20th century and was also awarded the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit (the highest honor awarded by FIFA). He became a manager after his playing career and managed some of the top Indian football clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, and even the Indian National team. P.K. Banerjee is the most successful manager in the history of Indian Football.
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Nicknamed as “Sikkimese Sniper “ for his shooting ability. Bhutia was a household name in Indian Football in the 90s and early 2000s alongside I.M. Vijayan. At just 18 years of age, he became the youngest ever goal scorer for the Indian National Team. He went on to score 40 goals in 84 appearances for his nation. The “Sikkimese Sniper” is the first-ever Indian Footballer to sign a contract with the European team. He also played for some Malaysian clubs. Bhaichung has played for all most all the top division clubs of India. At East Bengal, he got his highest success. A stadium has been named after him by the Indian Football Federation for his outstanding contribution to Indian football.
Although still actively playing, Chhetri is the greatest Indian player ever. He is very popular among Indian football fans and is the face of Indian football in modern times. He started his career at Mohun Bagan and at a time in point played in the top MLS Club. Kansas City Wizards and in Europe for Sporting Portugal B. Currently, he is the captain of Bengaluru FC and also the Indian national team. The 36-year-old has won the AIFF player of the year a record six times so far.