VP Sathyan was a former Indian professional footballer-turned-coach. He was an indispensable player for all the teams he played. Sathyan, an ardent football lover, gave everything on the pitch. His style of play was never a physical battle against his opponents but stopped them with precise tacklings. This was the main attraction of his game and undoubtedly his major strength. Unfortunately, he committed suicide on 18 July 2006.
Vatta Parambath Sathyan was born on 29 April 1965 in Mekkunnu near Chokli in Kannur, Kerala. Sathyan is regarded as one of the best players in the history of Indian football. He was known for his defensive prowess, discipline and leadership qualities. He captained the Indian national football team between 1991-1995. Sathyan, who played as a centre-back, scored some goals too. The most noteworthy will be the goal he scored against South Korea in the 1986 Merdeka tournament, a 35-yard footer that helped India to win the match.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
VP Sathyan belonged to a Malayali family from Kannur. His father Vatta Parambath Gopalan Nair was a policeman, and his mother was Narayanni Amma.
Wife & Children
He was married to Anitha, who now works as a clerk at the Sports Council Office in Kozhikode. His daughter, Athira, got married in 2017.
VP Sathyan’s life as a footballer is a bittersweet tale. He started his career in 1979 playing for the Lucky Star Club in Kannur, Kerala. His consistent performance and technical qualities earned him a place in the Kannur district team, and shortly after that, he was selected for the Kerala state team. He played for some of the top clubs in India and represented the country in different tournaments. Complications from an injury he sustained earlier in his career cost him dearly, and he had to bid farewell to football too early.
V.P. Sathyan and I.M. Vijayan
Lucky Star Club
VP Sathyan’s football career and the Kannur district have a strong bond. Sathyan started his career with Lucky Star Club in Kannur. He joined them in 1979, and by 1983 he was an integral element of the club.
Kerala Police football club
The Kerala Police football club was founded in 1984. VP Sathyan was the centre of defence, and with teammates like IM Vijayan, the Police club made history. They won the Federation Cup in 1990 and 1991. During this period, the Kerala Police football club rose to its legendary status in the domestic league. Sathyan won over the fans with his defensive prowess and leadership qualities, and he was the focal point of the team and inspired his teammates to perform better and play united as a team. His impressive performances with the Kerala police club earned him his first international call-up. Sathyan was a Kerala Police football club player for eight-successive seasons between 1984 and 1992. He bid farewell to the Kerala Police club in 1992 after receiving an offer from Mohun Bagan. He returned to the Police club in the 1994-1995 season and left at the end of the season.
VP Sathyan receiving commendation from K Karunakaran
VP Sathyan’s iconic performances at the Kerala Police club did not go unnoticed in the football world. Different clubs tried to sign him, but it was not easy to persuade him to leave the Kerala Police club. In 1992, however, Mohun Bagan was successful in securing his signature, and Sathyan was ready to try his luck outside of Kerala. He just played a season with Mohun Bagan and returned to the Kerala police club at the end of the season.
He joined the Indian Bank from the Kerala Police club in 1995. This was his final club, in 2001 when he announced his retirement as a professional player. He was part of the team for six years and enjoyed a successful run with the club.
Sathyan’s performances for the Kerala state team and the Kerala Police club were pivotal for his chances with the Indian national football team. He made his international debut with the Indian football team during the 1985 Nehru Cup held at Thiruvananthapuram. In an international career lasting over ten years, he made 81 appearances for India and scored four goals. An important achievement under his captaincy was India improved their global ranking to 99 from their previous ranking of 119 in the FIFA global rankings list. In 1993, India won the first-ever South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship under Sathyan’s captaincy. He announced his retirement from international football in 1995.
VP Sathyan along with Indian players after winning the SAFF 1993
VP Sathyan joined the Indian Bank football club in 1995, he took over the coaching duties of the first team in April 2000 after the passing of then-coach Albert Fernando. He continued as a player-cum-coach for the National Bank, even when injuries were limiting his chances. He tried so hard to save his career that he continued playing even after he had a steel rod in his injured leg. Sathyan turned into a full-time coach after he hung up his boots. He also served as an assistant coach under Stephen Constantine (then Indian coach) when India toured South Korea in 2002.
V.P. Sathyan, as an assistant coach with the Indian national football team
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year Award – 1992
- South Asian Football Federation Championship – He won the Championship in 1993 and was the runner-up in 1995.
- South Asian Games – He won the Gold medal in 1985 and the Silver medal in 1993.
VP Sathyan committed suicide on 18 July 2006. According to some sources, he threw himself under a train. It was reported that he suffered depression after moving away from football, and he became addicted to alcohol and was never the cheerful VP Sathyan again. Reports also suggest that he had heavy debts and committed suicide after failing to find a way to repay them. The police discovered suicide notes addressed to different people from his body. One was for his wife, in which he expresses how sorry he was to leave them alone and that he had lost everything to addiction, and suicide was his only option. In an interview, his wife Anitha denied the suicide rumours and said that,
“Sathyan cannot commit suicide. It was an accident, not suicide. I had insisted on seeing his body after I was told about his death. Save for a small injury behind his head, there were no other wounds anywhere on his body. His body didn’t look like that of person who had thrown himself in front of a train. His shoes were still intact. I had seen this for myself…”
- The 2018 Malayalam movie, Captain, is based on Sathyan’s life. Malayalam actor Jayasurya played the role of VP Sathyan and won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 2019 for his brilliant portrayal of VP Sathyan. Anu Sithara played the role of Anitha, Sathyan’s wife.
- V P Sathyan Soccer School in Kozhikode, Kerala, was launched in November 2013 by his wife, Anitha, in memory of her late husband.