He seems to be a forgotten star in his own hometown of Hyderabad. It is the birth centenary of one of the finest football coaches ever in Indian history — S.A. Rahim — the man who guided the national squad to a semi-final appearance in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and to two gold medals in the Asian Games.
But ironically, not many at home are even aware of this. No individual or institution has done anything to mark the occasion.
But for his son and himself a former Olympian, S.S. Hakeem, it was a special year. And to his delight, it was the West Bengal Football Association which decided to honour the late Rahim by instituting the ‘best coach’ award by his name in the IFA Shield every year henceforth.
“This is a wonderful gesture. However it hurts me to realise that there is no-one in my own city even to organise a token function in remembrance of the great coach,” said Hakeem, a 1960 Olympian, in a chat with The Hindu.
Ironically, Hakeem, who was also a FIFA referee in 33 matches too is ‘jobless’ like many of his illustrious contemporaries. “Where is the chance to give back something to the sport? In Hyderabad, no-one knows who is in charge of the game,” says the former Olympian. “If everything is in order, why we would think of looking only at Bengal. Obviously there the sport has better patronage,” he said.
By coincidence, Dronacharya awardee, Syed Nayeemuddin, who led India to a bronze in the 1970 Asiad, who is another pupil of S.A. Rahim, was in Hyderabad and he too lamented the lack of opportunities to serve the game in Hyderabad.
Unlike many others of his age, Hakeem at 67 can make an under-19 player feel ashamed of his fitness. “This is one of the traits which I picked up from my father,” he says proudly.
When Shivkumarlal, a former top AP Police official, introduced the A-Division Rahim league championship, it was then deemed as not just a tribute to the great coach but also an effort to see that the tournament and the State continues to produce top quality players. However, now the tournament is in the doldrums.
“It is not just the sport which is dying. Even the attitude of some of those who are in a position to do something is condemnable,” said Hakeem.
Another grim reminder of the plight of football in Hyderabad is pointed out by S.R. Sukumara, former Director General of Police. He said that he was pained to note that the Union Sports Ministry which wanted to financially help the 1956 Olympians, could not ‘trace’ the addresses of some of the Hyderabad players who were members of that team, and thereby could not help them.
Only last week, AIFF observer C.R. Visswanathan was in the city in a bid to thrash out the differences between the warring groups and to set the AP Football Association in order. He also felt the AIFF would do well to organise an exhibition match in the city in memory of Rahim.
Right now, like many fans, even Hakeem is keeping his fingers crossed — hoping against hope for a change of script on the football field in his hometown.