On 4 September 1962, the Indian football team was all set to play against South Korea in the finals of the Jakarta Asian Games. The only hurdle in their way was that the team’s two defenders and the goalkeeper were seriously injured. However, their coach hadn’t taught them to give up, and the players led India to victory with a 2-1 win.
The coach who created this magic was Syed Abdul Rahim, on whose life Ajay Devgn’s upcoming film ‘Maidaan’ is based.
According to a Firstpost article, a night before the big match, the coach went up the to the players and said, “Kal aap logon se mujhe ek tohfa chahiye, kal aap sona jeetlo. (I want a gift from you tomorrow, boys. Get the gold)” And the boys did just that.
Born in Hyderabad in 1909, the man led Indian football towards it ‘Golden Age’ from 1951 to 1962. Syed made the Hyderabad City Police team one of the finest in the country, and thus was noticed by the Indian football team. He was appointed its head coach in 1950. In just a year, he led the team to a gold win at the 1951 Asian Games.
Known as the ‘Architect of Modern Indian Football’, Syed was known to get what he wanted and bring the change that was required.
After the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where India faced a humiliating defeat due to playing barefoot, he knew that this would be the last time the boys would play like this. So, for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Syed knew the team he wanted.
He insisted to bring in a few players from the Hyderabad team, as it had won the Santosh Trophy final of 1956, by beating Bombay. However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) refused, saying that Hyderabad would have lost if Bengal had played the final. Not the sort to give up easily, he suggested that a match be played between Hyderabad and Bengal before the team was finalized. Hyderabad crushed Bengal in that match, and Syed got the team that he wanted.
At the age of 54, he breathed his last on 11 June 1963. He had been suffering from lung cancer for some time, and went on to coach India during the Jakarta Asian Games in that state.
Hence, that night when he asked the players to get him a gold, it wasn’t just the players who were battling injuries. He too, was fighting his own battle.
In the Bollywood film Maidaan, Ajay Devgn will be reprising his role. The makers announced the film by releasing a poster. The film will mainly cover the period between 1952 and 1962, and will be directed by Badhaai Ho director Amit Sharma.
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