Forgotten on birth centenary - Legendary coach rahim - SAAB yet to get the honour and respect he deserves

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  • Published 17.08.09

New Delhi: On Monday, when most of those connected with football will be focused on the preparations of the Nehru Cup, the birth centenary of India’s greatest coach in the post-Independence era could pass by unnoticed.

Syed Abdul Rahim of Hyderabad is a forgotten man today. Born on August 17, 1909, he coached India to two Asian Games gold medals and a rare fourth place in the Olympics and was widely regarded as the architect of modern Indian football.

His tactical brilliance once moulded the national team into achieving some sterling deeds on the field but few remember his work, not even the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the custodian of the game in the country.

“Sadly, no one in the Indian football fraternity remembers my father these days,” said a disappointed SS Hakim, Rahim’s son, himself an Olympian and a Fifa referee. “Even the AIFF has not deemed it fit to remember and honour him on the grand occasion of his birth centenary,” rued Hakim.

Going by the current standard, what Rahim did for Indian football was an impossible task. In 1951, he coached the infant nation to gold medal in the inaugural Asian Games in Delhi and a year later after India were drubbed by Yugoslavia in the Olympics, Rahim brought about a complete transformation in the national team to whip it into one of the best in the continent.

For the next 10 years, till Rahim died on June 11, 1963, India were one of the strongest teams in Asia. Single handedly, he raised a highly talented side that included legends like Chuni Goswami, P.K. Banerjee, Tulsidas Balaram, Yousuf Khan, Jarnail Singh, Arun Ghosh, Peter Thangaraj, Ram Bahadur, Kempiah, SK Azizuddin, Zaufiqar, Prasanta Sinha, Franco and many others.

“Unfortunately, Rahim’s contribution to Indian football has gone totally unrewarded,” admitted PK Banerjee, the man who struck one of India’s two valuable goals in the 1962 Asian Games final against South Korea in Jakarta.

In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, India reached semi-finals to finish fourth under Rahim but his greatest moment came in the 1962 Asiad. Already suffering from cancer, Rahim proved a master tactician when he guided India to the gold medal in front of a hostile crowd. Seven of Rahim’s wards, who played in that historic final, received Arjuna awards and two were conferred with Padmashree but neither the government nor the AIFF bothered to name the mentor for any award, not even posthumously.

“Truly amazing is their apathy towards the great man,” said Hakim. “The AIFF has treated Rahim like an untouchable.”

In domestic football, anything that Rahim touched turned into gold. From an ordinary team, he turned the Hyderabad City Police into a fearsome combination that lifted the Rovers Cup eight times between 1950 and 1963 and the Durand Cup four times. During Rahim’s days, at least 30 players from Hyderabad donned national colours.

“The present set of people in the AIFF do not remember Rahimsaab, but I do,” said Arun Ghosh, the towering stopper back of the 1962 team.