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Remembering unsung heroes

In the field of football, many veterans from the city remained unsung heroes despite their contribution at different levels. The 2002 National Games to be conducted here in December would be a fitting occasion to remember and honour these players, writes ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA.

Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

Veteran footballers recall the good old days (Left to Right) P. Thangaraj, D.M.K Afzal and S Naeemuddin.

NOWADAYS MOST sportspersons who win medals and bring home laurels are widely feted and honoured. The government and sponsors, too, heap cash incentives upon them. The good thing is that at the end of it all, the sportspersons usually end up with a sizeable amount of cash and material rewards in the form of house sites or cars and so on.

But the situation was a lot different a few decades ago when just a handful of sportspersons got adequate rewards or recognition. Even this often depended upon their clout and influence in political circles or upon the amount of publicity that they were able to generate in the media.

In the process, many a deserving sportsperson got left behind, forgotten by all and left with only his memories and a handful of medals and certificates. Many of them had to face difficult financial conditions and despite running from pillar to post, they could not get the small comforts which they needed and which they deserved for their all their sacrifices.

The Hyderabad Veteran Football Players Association has recently brought to the notice of the government and public the need to do something for the footballers of yesteryear from this region and whose exploits had made Hyderabad famous not only in the country but also in international arenas. The medals and national and international honours gained by these footballers in the Fifties and Sixties remain unmatched. With the 2002 National Games set to be conducted in the city in December, it would be a fitting occasion to remember and honour the deeds of these players, say the veterans.

In football, the city has had a great tradition set up by players of international repute. Some of them are no longer in our midst, some others are in need of financial support and some who are more fortunate can manage to pull along in a modest manner. But, by and large, none of the players has got his due recognition and reward, say the veterans.

Some of the names that have come up include the late Ahmed Mohiuddin, founder member of the Hyderabad Football Association and a great sports lover who initiated a movement to popularise not only football but also several other sports in this region. Another name is that of S.A. Raheem, an outstanding footballer and an even greater coach — perhaps, the most successful coach that the country ever had. As coach of the Indian team from 1950 to 1962, India won Asian Games titles, got fourth place at the Melbourne Olympics, was runner up in the Merdeka Cup and bagged several other international honours. He passed away in 1963.

Also mentioned are some of India's most legendary players such as Olympians Dhanraj, S.K. Azeezuddin (who represented the country in two Olympics, three Asian Games, captained the Indian team and was the only player to play for the country in all the matches held between 1949 till 1958), Noor Mohammed (two Olympics and three Asian Games), S.K. Moinuddin (Olympics and Asian Games), S.A. Lateef (double Olympian and Asian Games), T. Balaram (double Olympian, Asian Games and Arjuna awardee), Ahmed Hussain (Olympics and Asian Games), S.A. Salam (Olympics, Asian Games and national coach), Zulfiquaruddin (Olympics), P. Thangaraj (double Olympian, three times Asian Games and Arujna awardee), Yousuf Khan, S.H.H. Hameed, D. Kannan (all three Olympians) and S.S. Hakeem (Olympian, international referee, national coach and administrator).

Then, there are those who represented the country in the Asian Games such as G.Y.S. Laiq, A. Patrick, M. Rahamatullah, D.M.K. Afzal, S. Naeemuddin, Md. Habeeb, Shabbir Ali, Md. Fareed and Victor Amalraj.

Even coaches from Hyderabad served the game with distinction. It was not just Raheem, who could get the best out of the team but some of those who played for the national squad later turned to coaching and thereby continued to render service such as G.M. Pentaiah, S.A. Salam, Ahmed Hussain, S.S. Hakeem and Naeemuddin. Others did their bit as national and international referees and they include Maqdoom Sabir, Moinuddin Hasan, G.M. Pentaiah, M. Azam, S.K. Azeezuddin, S. Kareemuddin and S.S. Hakeem. When the National Games gets underway in December, it would be the most fitting occasion to pay tribute to these former players.

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