Former Indian Captain Shanmugam Venkatesh recollects SAFF memories

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Malé: Former Indian skipper and currently the assistant coach of the Indian National Football team Shanmugam Venkatesh reminsced SAFF wins with legendary I M Vijayan and terms the third leading Indian SAFF goal scorer as a ‘festival’ in himself.

“Vijayan was like a festival. You just had to enjoy him while playing. And if you were lucky to be on the same side with him, it was more fun. He used to pick up rival defenders and midfielders and go past them just for fun. And then used to tell us – “Dekha, mainey kiya. (Did you guys see that)?” He was a pure genius.” he said to the AIFF media.

The Indian team is currently at Maldives preparing for the SAFF Championships, with Bangladesh, Nepal , Maldives and Sri-Lanka. For skipper turned assistant coach, Shanmugam who has won the championship twice , in 1999 in Goa and in 2006 in Pakistan revisited his memories of wining games with legendary I M Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia along with Bruno Coutinho. Talking about the team and dressing room atmosphere, Shanmugam said,

“I remember them laughing and making fun all throughout the match. For Vijayan and Bhaichung, it was all too easy. The triangle of Bruno operating from the hole with Bhaichung and Vijayan on the rampage was too much to handle for other teams. Bruno used to shuffle and send in those delectable long balls. His leadership skills were an example for all. The quality in every department was so unmistakable”.

Indian Football team featuring Shanmagum Venkatesh, I M Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia.

Taking of the current squad Shanmugam expressed his profound desire for the win of the Blue Tigers in the competition.

“Every team comes out here to win, including us. We are here in the Maldives to win it. The standard of play in the SAFF region has improved quite a bit. The technical preparation of the teams has made them more compact, keeping them in tune with their modern-day vision,” added Shanmugam.

The Blues will begin their quest in the SAFF Championships from Monday , October 4 when they take on cross border rivals Bangladesh who already secured three points beating Sri Lanka in the inaugural match.

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