Where is football in Hyderabad, ask Olympians

July 31st, 2008 - 5:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, July 31 (IANS) Hyderabad has produced more Olympian footballers than any other city in the country. Alas, today there is hardly any trace of the ‘Beautiful Game’ in Andhra Pradesh and this year the state even failed to field a team in the National Championship in Srinagar in May. The rulers of the erstwhile Hyderabad state patronised the game and football became the most popular sport for close to five decades till late 1970s, the 50s-70s period being the golden era.

Hyderabadi footballers formed the nucleus of the Indian team that took part in three Olympics — 1952 (Helsinki), 1956 (Melbourne) and 1960 (Rome) under the coach Syed Abdul Rahim’ s stewardship as he was also the secretary of the Hyderabad Football Association for 20 years (1943-1963).

The squad to Helsinki had three Hyderabadis — Syed Khwaja Azizuddin, Noor Mohammed and S.K. Moinuddin. In Melbourne the number jumped to eight — Peter Thangaraj, Azizuddin, Mohammed Abdul Salaam, Ahmed Hussain, Noor, J. Krishnaswamy, Dharmalingam Kannan, Tulsidas Balaram and Mohammmed Zulfikaruddin. In Melbourne, India finished fourth, their best ever performance in the Olympics.

The Italian capital in the summer of 1960 also saw six Hyderabadis — Thangaraj, Yusuf Khan, S.S. Hakeem, Balaram, Kannan and Habibul Hasan Hamid in the Olympic team.

They were part of India’s glorious football history and some of them are happily around recalling the days when Hyderabad was the only state in the country to challenge the might of Bengal soccer. But they say they are sad to see the administrators, in cahoots with vested interests, destroy the game.

Today there is no semblance of an Andhra Pradesh Football Association (AFPA). Internal bickerings has left the game in the state in ruins with the state body president and secretary pulling in different directions. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) tried to appoint an ad hoc committee, but that proved futile.

Hakeem, son of Rahim, says it is an irony that the Indian team which was dominated by the Hyderabad footballers at one time has no player from the city in the team playing in the AFC Challenge Cup here.

“I don’t live in the past. If I do that I will be hurting myself. I have accepted the present and living with it. But at times when I look back I really feel ashamed of the state of football in Hyderabad,” Hakeem told IANS.

“I am very lucky to be part of the best period for both Indian as well as Hyderabad football. The famous clubs of Hyderabad, which produced all the great Olympians, are in a debilitating state.”

Hakeem points out that the rot had set in the 1980s, when T.G. Venkatesh became the president and Alaf Khan , the honorary secretary of the AFPA. After the death of Alaf Khan in 2002, his younger brother Anis-ul-Mulq staked claim.

Venkatesh and Anis soon fell out and for the last three years, the two have filed numerous cases to gain control of the association. The AIFF brought about a truce two years ago, but that did not last long.

“They started suspending clubs for questioning their unreasonable and unjustifiable diktats, leaving defunct clubs on paper. If you start suspending the clubs how can you promote the game and where from you get the players,” asks Hakeem, who is now in charge of the Air Force team in New Delhi.

Hakeem says with no clubs to play, there are no local tournaments today. Famous out-fits like Andhra Pradesh Police, XI Hunters, National Sporting, Merry Go Round, Hyderabad Sporting and City College Old Boys, which were nurseries of the game and from where the Olympians came up, are only part of football folklore today.

Hamid said: “If you look around, you can see that states like Goa and West Bengal are doing well in football because they have strong state associations. A vibrant state association will conduct tournaments and the clubs get motivated to perform well. But here we don’t even have a proper association, then who will take care of the sport.

“We had a great tournament like the Nizam Gold Cup, which you can now only find in the quiz books. Even the state league hasn’t been held for quiet some time, let alone local tournaments. There was a time when we used to have the Majeed Challenge Shield, Shivkumar Lal tournament and a tournament in the name of Rahim Saab. So where from will you get players.”

Zulfikaruddin feels that not only the power hungry administrators, even the players of our generation are also to be blamed for the state of the game here.

“It is easy to blame the administrators, but can anyone say what they did for the sport. None took the responsibility to come forward and take the charge. There was talent but we let it go because there was no money in the game here. We moved to other states for a secured life and never bothered about the nursery that helped us to attain such heights.”

Among the last crop of vintage footballers was Mohammed Habib the livewire striker who spent the entire professional career in Calcutta. He was a member of the bronze-winning India team to the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games. Incidentally, another famous Hyderabadi, Dronachary Syed Nayeemuddin was the captain of that side.

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