S.S. Hakim: Not sure if I will see an Indian football team in Olympics

Hakim, who was part of the Indian football team for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, feels the country's fancy for foreign coaches has ruined the natural skills of players.

Former India footballer S.S. Hakim was part of the 1960 Rome Olympics.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The Indian football team last participated in an Olympics in 1960. And, S.S. Hakim, son of the great coach Syed Rahim from Hyderabad, happens to be one of the members of the squad from the Rome edition.

The team failed to qualify for the next round but for Hakim, it stands out as one of the memorable experiences. It was a story of missed chances; the great Chuni Goswami had missed two sitters against Peru. “I remember vividly the team led by the great PK (Banerjee) with my father as the coach. Tulsidas Balaram scored two goals - one each against Hungary and Peru. But unfortunately, we lost both the matches,” Hakim told Sportstar.

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“Then we had the satisfaction of holding France to a draw with PK scoring the goal in the 71st minute to level the scores. But we failed to move to the knock-out phase,” he recalled.

“I was not in the starting eleven. The team was packed with heavyweights; only in case of an injury to some of the big names, players like me had a chance,” said the 81-year-old.

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“The atmosphere was unthinkable. Being just there and basking in the aura of an Olympics is something every athlete dreams of. I am fortunate to be part of that squad,” he said.

“That was the golden era of Indian football with Hyderabad itself producing 15 Olympians. I can tell you that the bench strength was so good that a stand-by eleven was always waiting to grab the chance of representing the country,” he said with a lot of pride.

“Coach Rahim Saab, who was with the Indian team since the 1948 Olympics, had an unfulfilled dream to see the Indian team win an Olympic medal,” he said.

“The top football officials from the UK were so impressed with Rahim Saab’s coaching. They invited him to be a visiting lecturer to enlighten them on the art of scoring goals. But, unfortunately, since the Government of India couldn’t release the required foreign exchange then, he couldn’t make it,” Hakim said.

“Honestly, I am not sure whether I will be able to see an Indian team in the Olympics in future. I may be wrong, but I find fault with the fancy for these foreign coaches, forgetting the artistry and natural skills which the Indians possessed for decades now,” he concluded.

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