SWAT 2022 calendar pays homage to Hyderabad football legends
Hyderabad: Closer to home, the Sports Writers Association of Hyderabad (SWAT) 2022 calendar aims to encapsulate the history of the “beautiful game” at its peak. No less than half a dozen footballers from the Twin Cities have been captains of the Indian team. The portraits are written by The hinduthe former deputy editor of Abhijit Sen Gupta and the series is called “Nizam’s Jewels”.
The 14 Olympians who honored the Quadrennial Games from London (1948) to Rome (1960) naturally occupy a prominent place in its pages. They are followed by some of the 21 illustrious internationals who have done their best for the city, the club and the country.
If it takes a spark to start a fire, the timeline starts with the man who made all of these Herculean feats possible. One act spoke more than a thousand words for coach Syed Abdul Rahim and he was the ninth member of the Hyderabad Indian team at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. His footballing acumen was acclaimed by such figures as the former FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous himself.
Some profiles are no larger than miniature sketches due to the scarcity of material available. The football establishment in the 1950s and 1960s did not show great foresight in recording the achievements of its players for posterity. The poor marketing skills of these men, who were mostly employed by the Hyderabad City Police as agents, made matters worse.
After spending his entire working life in the force, Noor Mohammed retired as an inspector. The lean and nervous double Olympian died in misery of tuberculosis in Osmanpura! As the late football historian Novy Kapadia noted, some of those who had traveled the world couldn’t even afford a local bus ticket. The same goes for the Helsinki and Melbourne Olympics warhorse Salaam, whom others sew their torn soccer shoes on themselves, just to save on the shoemaker’s costs.
On many occasions these valiant men from Hyderabad, at great tournaments in other cities, carried their own provisions. They cooked in their rooms, because eating out was a luxury they could hardly afford. Legend has it that the owner of a now famous Delhi restaurant collected recipes for many non-vegetarian delicacies from these simple souls.
A shade of sepia in the photographs, some dating back more than half a century, gives the calendar a “classic” look, like a western film by Sergio Leone Sphagetti. The dates of each month are set against a sketch of the Jules Rimet Trophy. And with good reason, since it is the year of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Former Indian captain Victor Amalraj describes the calendar as “one of a kind”. SWAT has endeavored to shine the spotlight on these selfless sons of the land and toil. Most of them left for a long time for the Champs Elysées, having lived without reward or recognition, unrecognized and even unknown, sometimes in their own native country. Some were awarded the Arjuna Prize, which at that time carried nothing more than the statuette of the mythological archer.
Public memory is short, even more so in sport. Hyderabad is quick to celebrate achievements in the present. The performances of the past also need praise, lest the legends of yesteryear be forgotten by future generations. For those wishing to spread the word and foster memories of the heyday of Hyderabad football, wholesale purchase requests / orders can be sent to [email protected]
(A. Joseph Antony was on Sony TV’s commentary panel for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2020, the 2021 Copa America and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The author of “My way — The bioography of ML Jaisimha “(Apple Books, Amazon), a senior associate editor with The Hindu in Hyderabad.)