Fearless approach led Indian football to 1962 Asian Games gold medal, says Afzal

Former Indian footballer D. M. K. Afzal recalls his memories from the 1962 Asian Games, where the Indian football team won a historic gold medal.

D. M. K. Afzal, member of the Indian football team which won the 1962 Asian Games gold in Jakarta.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

It was at Goshamahal Stadium here that the legendary coach, late S. A. Rahim, formulated all the strategies during the preparatory camp of the Indian team for the 1962 Asian Games which eventually helped the team clinch win what remains the sport's only football gold in the Asiad.

“The mantra of Rahim saab (as he is fondly remembered by the football fraternity) which clinched the issue for India in the final was to advise the players not to play for the off-side trap as they could be confused by whistling from the crowd which was not only boisterous but anti-India too. He just wanted the Indians to always keep possession of the ball,” recalls D. M. K. Afzal, a member of that gold-medal winning team, who featured in two league matches.

“Yes, there was some uncertainty about the Indian team’s participation as there was a delay in the Finance Ministry giving the go-ahead. But, to his credit, the great Rahim saab ensured that the players were fully focussed on the game in the camp. All the players stayed on the first floor of the stadium and never really moved out till another camp was held in Kolkata before we left for Jakarta,” recalls 75-year-old Afzal at his residence in the by-lanes of Asifnagar on Sunday.

 

“It is a pity that the renowned coach within one after that memorable feat,” he said.

“That Indian team had no fear and was never under pressure despite the odd setbacks. For, it was guided by a coach who knew how to get the best out of his players and remember it was a star-studded line-up which included the likes of P. K. Banerjee, captain Chuni Goswami, T. Balaraman, goalkeeper Peter Thangaraj,” continued Afzal.

“The move to shift the tall and athletic Jarnail Singh as centre-half was the master-stroke which caught the rivals Korea completely off guard in the final. It was a tribute to Jarnail’s efficacy that despite an injury he could still a goal in India’s 2-1 win for the gold,” he added.

“It remains my greatest moment despite not playing in the final and I have no regrets,” said Afzal.

“I don’t remember any of the players getting incentives. Honestly, we played with passion, a sense of pride and for the sheer love of the sport,” he said, visibly content at being part of a truly historic campaign in the Asian Games.