The football crazy state of Kerala has had its share of footballing heroes. One of the very first players making it to the highest echelon of Indian football was PB Saleh, whose winner against Swedish first division team IFK Goteborg in an exhibition match on November 22, 1951 was the first memorable victory of a club team against a foreign outfit since independence. Apart from the outside-left of East Bengal, who excelled in the predominant 2-3-5 formation and was part of the famous attacking quintet known as the “Pandavas”, four other players from the region including famous left winger Abdul Rahman, were also part of India’s Olympics squad in the fifties.

While the 1973 Santosh Trophy winning team consisting of CC Jacob, TK Mani, John J John et al hogged the limelight in the following years, Kerala football finally found its golden generation in late eighties. The likes of IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, VP Sathyan, CV Pappachan and Kurikesh Mathew became household names among Indian sports fans as Kerala made seven consecutive appearances in the final of Santosh Trophy – the inter-state football championship - during 1987-‘93.

A proud footballing region

In 1997, the birth of India’s first “professional” club FC Kochin, funded by non-resident Indians and flush with money, was a major boost to the growing enthusiasm about football. The club signed up India internationals Vijayan, Raman Vijayan, Carlton Chapman and Ancheri in the very first season and became the state’s representative in the newly introduced National Football League.

However, once age caught up with these stars and FC Kochin’s years in the sun ended, there was a large void. The stands were full for the seven-a-side football matches, but the state was in dire need of a superstar to raise its footballing profile.

The wait is now over as CK Vineeth has come of age to become the new demigod among the football fans of the region and beyond.

The 28-year old attacker from Kannur started his career at Viva Kerala before going on to play for Kolkata’s United Sports Club. He was later snapped up by Bengaluru FC midway into the club’s first season and has remained a part of the Blues since then, with his loan stint to Indian Super League franchise Kerala Blasters marking his homecoming after three and a half years.

Enter Vineeth

An attacker with tenacity to fight for every inch on the pitch, his knack of goal-scoring is what makes the Bengaluru FC player unique. Even though he has often been deployed on the flank, he has scored a whopping 29 I-League goals since the start of the 2011-‘12 season, a figure only bettered by his team-mate Sunil Chhetri who has three goals more to his name. If one considers the fact that Chhetri also takes penalty-kicks, Vineeth has actually scored more field goals than anyone else in the last five campaigns.

The numbers are in his favour as he has already scored 10 goals in the ISL and the I-League combined, the only Indian to hit the double digit mark till now. However, his opportunities in the national team colours have been very limited with current India coach Stephen Constantine not known to be a big fan of him.


Even though the nimble footed forward has failed to make himself a regular in the national team set-up, it has not stopped him from becoming new footballing sensation in his state with his enviable goal-scoring record for Blasters also helping his cause.

After drawing a blank in the second edition of the cash-rich league, he set the stage ablaze this season after his late arrival after Bengaluru FC’s AFC Cup final appearance. He scored five goals in six group games, winning eight points for his team. His arrival turned his ISL side Kerala Blasters’ season on its head after the Steve Coppell coached squad had a horrendous start to life. Thousands thronged in the ground to catch the team in action and they repaid the faith by winning six consecutive home fixtures. Vineeth’s stocks soared with each passing game.

In his late twenties now, the amateur photographer is now willing to stay closer to home and seems perfectly happy to be part of Bengaluru’s roster. It is a club that has elevated him to the Indian footballing elite even though he had already proved his mettle playing for weaker sides. He recently became the first player in the short history of the club to score a hat-trick. On the other hand, Vineeth has seen fanaticism around him go to a whole new level while playing for Blasters.


When the proposed new league structure is finally introduced in two years’ time, which team he signs up for. But for now, he has filled the large vacuum that was plaguing Kerala football and helped the game become a major talking point in public spheres once again.