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A committed coach
SHOWING THE WAY: Mohammed Ilyas Babar. - Photo: P.V.Sivakumar
IT WAS a tragic sight. The famous beard, a trademark sign indicative of the presence of this legendary athletics coach even in a crowd, was gone (on the advice of the doctors).
It took lot of persuasion with the family members to remove the three decade-old, sentimental beard. And, with that vanished the youthful exuberance he displayed even just a few days ago at one of the camps in the city despite being 76 years of age.
Fate, they say, is a cruel factor. For someone who never enjoyed the real fruit of all hardship he faced - for the noble cause of producing quality athletes and so consistently - Mohammed Ilyas Babar's grim battle for survival for almost a week has ended on a losing note at the Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences in the city.
He suffered severe complications from ulcer and had to be admitted in a critical condition a week ago.
In the 1978 Asian Games, an experts panel adjudged him as the best coach in Asia and presented him the Adidas `Golden Shoe' for his outstanding contribution to athletics which is reflected by the 17 gold medals his trainees won at the Asian level meets and the Asian Games.
His trainees included two Padma Shris and five Arjuna Awardees. He qualified as an athletics coach in the NIS Patiala under the famous American Dr. Howard.
It is a different story that when his services could have been better utilised, the people who mattered, looked the other way.
Only recently he was asked to take up an advisory role in athletics training for the 2002 National Games. It is not for nothing he left his birthplace, Hyderabad, the last time in 1978.
When A.S.V.Prasad, now director of Indian Olympic Association, showed the required concern to seek Ilyas Babar's services to train athletes at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, not a single athlete turned up for 18 months.
All because of the `scheming' of the some of the officials, as Babar himself revealed to `The Hindu' recently. "In disgust, I left the city for another assignment,'' he moaned.
Despite his advancing age, Ilyas Babar never kept himself away from the latest rules and regulations, the nuances of contemporary coaching.
He always believed in the simple dictum - the basics remain the same and veer around the common principles like speed and endurance.
Ilyas Babar's life is a shining example of a perfect coach. That he put behind personal tragedies like losing his third son, Ahmed Raza, in a freak mishap when he died colliding with a fellow fielder while taking a catch on the cricket field in a local friendly match in late Eighties, speaks volumes of his dedication and commitment.
Despite being the most respected sports personality in the Army circles by virtue of his long stint with the Rajputana Rifles and his tall deeds, he never thought of bending before anyone for petty favours like even getting a job for any of his four sons and four daughters. Consequently, all of them ended up in search of a decent livelihood and still live in a rented house.
All these things do reflect the character of the personality whose solitary objective was to see the national tri-colour fly high in the international meets.
It was really touching to find three elderly gentlemen - Kabir Ahmed, Mallik Ahmedullah, Pasha Bhai - huddle themselves in low pitch debates in the corridors of the hospital, recalling those glorious days when their childhood friend, Ilyas Babar, was in his elements.
These were the gestures and words of comfort his family members badly needed in the hour of crisis.
For, they helped lift the morale of the near and dear. "You can mould a metal into a knife. But it will be useless if you don't provide the cutting edge,'' was his observation recently on the training methods in India. And this qualified athletic coach always longed to see his trainees excel in adversity. For instance, Shivnath tonsured his head and preferred to take part in the Jallandhar National meet after his father died and won three golds in 5000, 10,000 and marathon.
"That was Shivnath's tribute to the departed soul,'' Ilyas Babar recalled with his face wearing a proud and broad smile.
The ever-smiling and religious Ilyas Babar was always happy with what the Almighty had given him and it was never his nature to go around with a begging bowl. And one of his happier moments was when Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu handed over a cash prize of Rs.50, 000 some time back in recognition of his outstanding and self-service. Perhaps that is all he got.
The saving grace towards the end was the personal interest taken by L.V. Subrahmanyam, vice-chairman and managing director of SAAP, in the medical treatment for this great personality.
Yet, in the history of Indian sport, his life will remain an embodiment of true dedication towards his job - coaching.
And, he never really bothered for any returns. That he considered the gold won by his trainees more valuable than the Dronacharya Award he got in 1995 is a perfect example of the ultimate coach.
Sadly, the former State champion in 110 m hurdles couldn't cross this one last one in real life and see the light at the end of the tunnel. If he guided the destiny of many athletes over the last three decades and quite successfully too, fate deemed it otherwise and put an end to an illustrious career.
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