Not many in Hyderabad might recognise if the likes of Victor Amalraj, Md Akbar, Md. Habeeb, Syed Latifuddin stake a stroll in the streets of Hyderabad. For many of the current generation were not privileged to see them in action on the field or on TV.
So, it is not their fault for they played football when it was a passion and the city used to be the assembly-line for some gifted players. Yet, it was no surprise when these three along with another former international John Victor were special invitees and felicitated in Kolkata, still the Mecca of Indian football.
Interestingly, all of them happen to be the last link of Hyderabad to football in Kolkata with Amalraj having the rare distinction of representing all the three famous clubs in Bengal – Mohammadan Sporting, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
So, when Sporting Club invited them (those in the 60s, 70s and 80s) were also called for the platinum jubilee celebrations, they went nostalgic and were justifiably elated at the recognition they were getting even in the twilight of their career. Sporting Club president and Union Minister for State & Tourism, Sultan Ahmed, took personal care to give us a royal treatment, says Amalraj.
To the delight of these footballers, former India captain Sourav Ganguly, an acknowledged football lover and brand ambassador of Sporting Club, made an appearance on the field during the ‘friendly' match against East Bengal.
That there was a crowd of 50,000 to watch even these matches is an indication that the sport is alive and kicking, reminds Amalraj, former India captain.
So when Amalraj and his peers returned to the city, armed with the blazers and the mementoes, they had every reason to feel proud and at the same time feel sad at the sorry state of affairs of the sport back home.