For football sake
Politics in sports saddens Mohd. Habeeb. The Hyderabad footballer gets vocal about the state of football in the city with V.V.SUBRAHMANYAM.
STRAIGHT TALK: Mohd Habeeb (left) and Victor Amalraj. - Photo: P.V.Sivkakumar
MOHD. HABEEB, one of the finest footballers ever from Hyderabad to don the national colours, has a word of advice to the officials who govern the sport in the State, particularly in the city. "Fight for the cause - promotion of sport, and not for the chair.''
The 52-year-old, ace footballer of yesteryear, who has the rare distinction of playing in the Senior Nationals for a record 18 consecutive years, is visibly disgusted at the new low the game had hit in Hyderabad which was one of the assembly line of gifted players for the national team. "It hurts when people keep asking us (Hyderabadis) about the fate of the game back home,'' he moaned.
Ironically, players like Habeeb, Syed Nayeemuddin, S.S.Hakim and Shabbir Ali - all Hyderabadis - are all successful coaches of different teams in the country. "Perhaps, the best way to make a sincere attempt to reach anywhere near the standards of yesteryear is to start a full-fledged Academy on the lines of Tata Football Academy. Let it be run by a corporate group or the State Government, which is spending crores of rupees for the National Games infrastructure,'' he remarked. "But it should be located in the Capital and the trainees picked by former internationals and aged between 14 and 16 years,'' he added.
The 1981 Arjuna awardee strongly feels that it is high time the officials run the show in a much more professional manner and put their hearts into the efforts. "Game is more important than any post. Unless you have a definite calendar, nothing can be achieved. The reason why Hyderabad was the cradle of talent in our days was because of number of tournaments throughout the year. Now, you don't even have the prestigious Nizam Gold Cup often,'' he pointed out.
The gifted striker, who has the unique distinction of scoring one of the goals (the other was by Shyam Thapa) against the famous Cosmos Club, which had legendary Pele in the two-all drawn encounter at Eden Gardens in 1977, believes that politics in sports won't do any good to the sport. "Here I don't want to put the blame on any individual. If two groups are interested in promotion of sport, why they don't ensure the players' betterment,'' he remarked.
The genial giant, in terms of stature, is saddened by the fact that Hyderabad teams invariably fail to figure in the National championships. "It is disgusting that the few talented players were drifting away after the Rahim League itself for want of exposure,'' he pointed out. Ironically, the last time Hyderabad won the Santosh Trophy way back in 1965, Habeeb along with Nayeemuddin and Mohd Afzal played a key role in defeating Goa in the final.
"For the development of any sport, the image of the Association and its professional style of functioning are essential,'' Habeeb emphasised. The gentleman player also feels since Hyderabad has an entry to the National Games by virtue of being hosts, the opportunity should be used in a big way. "Now, tell me what are the preparations in this regard and how are we going ahead to win a medal in these Games. So, start the process now itself, involve former internationals, identify genuine talented players and give them the training. If there is the required will, the results are bound to be there,'' he stressed.
Questioned whether the State can expect his services in the promotion of the sport, Habeeb counters: "Which Hyderabadi doesn't want to do that?
It is time this negative mindset gives way for proper planning and sincere administration, If the State Government needs my services I promise whatever help I can do,'' he asserted. He also made it clear that he would love to set up an Academy on the lines of Tata Football Academy or even take up the `consultant' role if SAAP sets one.
But, the great footballer is firm that the scouting of talent should be done in all districts by sincere and former internationals with no interference from any quarter. For one who worked in the TFA from 1986 to 1999 under the guidance of Olympian and another great Chuni Goswami, Habeeb should know what he speaks. Now, coach of ITI Bangalore, Habeeb feels that India chief coach Akramov is doing a good job with quite a few former internationals including himself on the AIFF panel in advisory role.
Habeeb is proud to be the product of City College Old Boys, a team, which was second only to the then famous Hyderabad City Police.
"I sincerely wish the sporting atmosphere of those days is back and pray to God that Hyderabad is back on the national football scene in all its old glory,'' he concluded.
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