Legendary striker IM Vijayan was not great at communicating in Hindi with his teammates but knew the language of football better than anyone, said former India player Aqueel Ansari.

Ansari, who played for India in the 1990s, said Vijayan was an expert at reading the game.

“Vijayan-bhai was our senior and whatever you speak about him are less,” Ansari is quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation.

“His Hindi was not at par and sometimes he used to struggle while communicating. But he knew the language of football probably more than anyone and his game-reading was outstanding. He was a person who used to reach the right place at the right time and made the job look much easier.”

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Former captain Vijayan was the poster boy of Indian football before Bhaichung Bhutia came to the scene, with his goal-scoring abilities making him the most feared striker of his time.

He scored four goals in four matches to help India win the inaugural South Asian Football Federation Cup in 1993 in Pakistan.

“Undoubtedly he (Vijayan) was our best striker. In Lahore he worked hard and was our key man,” Ansari said, remembering the tour of Pakistan on the 27th anniversary.

India, coached by late Jiri Pesak kicked-off their campaign with a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka. Vijayan and Gunabir Singh sealed the tie for the Blue Tigers on July 16, 1993, before IM Vijayan helped India pip Nepal five days later. In the final fixture, VP Sathyan-led India secured a crucial point against hosts Pakistan, thanks to a late equaliser from Vijayan.

India midfielder Tejinder Kumar added: “Due to the wet conditions of the grounds, our match against Pakistan was delayed by 90 minutes. More than 10,000 supporters were cheering for their team but Vijayan broke their hearts. They were not happy at all.”

(With PTI inputs)