CHENNAI: Former India forward Raman Vijayan said he was filled with pride when his ward, Bengaluru FC’s N Sivasakthi, showed the country’s football community that he belonged to the top level with his eye-catching performances in the recent Durand Cup 2022.
About seven years ago, Vijayan had unearthed the ‘golden boy’ during a selection at Chidambaram and taken him under his wings. Forward Sivasakthi honed his skills at Vijayan’s academies – Raman Vijayan Soccer School and Noble Football Academy – and represented them, before striking a deal with Indian Super League club Bengaluru in 2020.
“I won the Durand Cup twice – once each with FC Kochin and Mahindra United FC – but the news did not reach the masses. Only a few papers and magazines in Tamil Nadu gave coverage. But, take the Durand Cup 2022 for instance. There is live coverage on TV. I felt proud looking at the kind of recognition Sivasakthi got; it was immeasurable. Performing at the highest level is not an easy task. He exceeded my expectations,” Vijayan told DT Next.
“When I was a player, I scored many important goals as a substitute. Watching him score goals as a substitute… they felt like replays to me,” Vijayan said of Sivasakthi, who netted four times after coming off the bench in the 131st edition of the tournament.
Vijayan emphasised that the goal Sivasakthi struck in the Durand Cup title decider against Mumbai City FC – in Kolkata – was extra special. “He scored a superb goal. I spoke to him after the final. I asked him how he made his way into the starting eleven (Sivasakthi made his first start for the BFC senior team in the final).
“He said: ‘I do not know, sir. Head coach Simon Grayson made me play in training the day before the final. Simon did that prior to all matches, but I never got to start a game [before the final]. I was told during lunch time that I would start in the final, so I prepared for it,’” Vijayan revealed details of the conversation he had with ‘one of his own’.
‘He is a unique goal scorer with extraordinary capacity’
According to Vijayan, Sivasakthi is not far away from breaking into the India squad. “One cannot hide talent for a long time. He is a unique goal scorer with extraordinary capacity. He has special qualities. Not many players in India are like him. He scored five goals in the Durand Cup, so the expectations are high. Everyone, including me, will expect him to score 10 goals in the Indian Super League. Expectations will always be there. I will be happier if he receives a national team call-up,” Vijayan went on to add.
WHEN I WAS A PLAYER, I SCORED MANY IMPORTANT GOALS AS A SUBSTITUTE. WATCHING HIM SCORE GOALS AS A SUBSTITUTE… THEY FELT LIKE REPLAYS TO ME RAMAN VIJAYAN ON HIS WARD