New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) Legendary striker I.M. Vijayan's game reading was second to none although he struggled while communicating in Hindi with his teammates on the field, said former India player Aqueel Ansari.
"Vijayan bhai was our senior and whatever you speak about him, are less. But his hindi was not at par and sometimes he used to struggle while communicating," Ansari told the-aiff.com.
"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."
Vijayan netted 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.
Tejinder Kumar, who made his debut against Finland in the Nehru Cup at the JLN Stadium in Madras (now, Chennai) on January 20, 1993, a match where Aqueel Ansari also played his first international match, added that Pakistani fans told the Indian players that they would return without winning the tournament.
"There were smiling faces all around when we landed in Pakistan. We were given a warm welcome and made to feel at home. But there was someone at the airport who smiled at us and had stated: "Bhaijaan, swagat hai. Lekin aap log har ke hi lautogey (Welcome to Pakistan. But you will return empty-handed)," Tejinder recalled.
"But I reiterate we were given a grand reception. Everyone around was keen to see that we did not face any problem," he added.
"But there was tight security all around -- even in the hotel. No one was allowed to go anywhere without security."
The Indian team, coached by Jiri Pesak kicked-off their campaign with a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka. Vijayan and Gunabir Singh sealed the tie for the blue brigade on July 16, 1993, before Vijayan helped India pip Nepal five days later.
In the final fixture, India secured a crucial point against hosts Pakistan, thanks to a late equaliser from Vijayan, to write their names in the history book.