Olympian footballers remember ‘Rahim Saab’ on his birth centenary

August 17th, 2009 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Not many soccer buffs, or for that matter the All India Foobtall Federation (AIFF), may have known that legendary football coach Syed Abdul Rahim was born exactly hundred years ago this day. Only a few of his wards remembered the adorable ‘Rahim Saab’ as his birth centenary year kicked off Monday.
Born Aug 17, 1909, Rahim was the greatest football coach the country has produced. Under him India played three Olympics (1952, 56 and 60) and also had their best ever fourth-place finish at the 1956 Melbourne Games. He also guided India to two Asian Games gold medals, in 1951 and 62 and passed away June 11, 1963, stricken by cancer.

AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco said the federation has not forgotten Rahim.

“We have a trophy named after him in the I-League. I am in touch with president in-charge Praful Patel to see what can we do in his centenary year,”he said.

For Olympians Mohammed Zulfikar, Arun Ghosh and his son Syed Shahid Hakeem, Rahim was not only a great coach but also a visionary, who scripted the golden era of Indian football.

During his 10 year stint as the national coach, Rahim’s boys were tops in the continent.

But his wards feel sad that their coach never got his due.

Zulfikar, who was a part of the famous 1956 Melbourne Olympics team, recalled how he was spotted by Rahim at the Fateh Maidan in Hyderabad.

“It was in 1955 and I was playing for Hyderabad Sporting in a local league match. After the match, Rahim saab, who was also the state association secretary, called me to his office. I was surprised to hear that he was impressed with my skills and told me that if I want to represent India in the Olympics I have to play in the National Championships. We won the nationals, beating Mumbai and I got a call from him to join the camp in Calcutta. He also asked my mother to feed me well for the Olympics,” Zulfikar told IANS from Hyderabad.

Zulfikar said Rahim Saab’s contribution to Indian football is immeasurable.

“He was a god to us. It is sad that we haven’t been able to give him back at least one percent of what he gave to the game,” he said.

Ghosh, the towering defender of the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 1962 Asiad, said it’s an unpardonable crime that AIFF could not plan centenary celebrations of India’s greatest coach.

“It is crime that on the ocassion of his birth centennary the AIFF is doing nothing to pay respects to him. But Rahim saab will always have a special place in our heart,” he said.

“Rahim saab was the best coach I ever had. He earned a lot of respect from the players. He had the knack of spotting talent very quickly.”

Besides Ghosh, Zulfikar and Hakeen, Rahim coached legends like Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, P.K. Banerjee, Mewalal, Tulsidas Balaram, Peter Thangaraj, Yousuf Khan, Jarnail Singh, Kempiah, S.K. Azizuddin, Noor, Prasanta Sinha and F.A. Franco.

Eight of Rahim’s wards, who were a part of the gold medal winning team at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, went on to win the Arjuna Award and two also got the Padmashree. But Rahim was never conferred any award by the federation or the government.

Hakeem, who is also writing the biography of his father, said that the AIFF has done nothing to recognise his enormous contribution to Indian football.

“They have just one trophy named after my father and it is given to the best coach of the league. But it is hardly known. They could have named the Federation Cup after my father. After what he gave to the game can never be matched,” he said. Some of the old-timers concur with him.

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