Fortunato Franco was one of the finest midfielders, says S. A. Hakim

Former Olympian Hakim pays glowing tributes to his former team-mate Fortunato Franco, who passed away on Monday.

Fortunato Franco was a part of Indian football's golden era between 1960 and 64. - GETTY IMAGES (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

Former Olympian S. A. Hakim paid glowing tributes to his former team-mate Fortunato Franco, who passed away on Monday.

Hakeem, the son of the legendary coach S. A. Rahim, said Franco was one of the finest midfielders India had ever seen.

“It is sad that one of the last links of that golden era of Indian football is no more. That he held his own place despite being a contemporary of such greats like P. K. Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, T. Balaram, Jarnail Singh showed his class,” Hakim told Sportstar.

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Rahim and Franco were both part of the Indian squad at the 1960 Olympics; unlike Rahim, however, Franco didn't get a chance to play in any game. “Apart from being an outstanding player, Franco was a perfect gentleman and was one of the favourites of my father for his skills, integrity and team spirit,” Hakim said.

'Deserved the Arjuna award'

“Obviously, the highpoint of his career was being a member of the gold-medal winning Indian team in the 1982 Asian Games. He truly deserved the Arjuna Award but unfortunately never considered for it,” said Hakim, who was also a member of the Indian team for the 1960 Rome Olympics.

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“He was a very straightforward person and may be that is why he was not liked by many,” he added.

Former India captain Shabbir Ali also expressed condolences to the bereaved family members. The Hyderabadi recalled his association with Franco who was the former’s coach when he was with the Tata Sports Club in ‘70s.

Another former India captain Victor Amalraj also joined in the condolences stating that Franco belonged to the era which saw Indian football dominate across the world. “The few times I met him, I found him to be very affable and one of those who shared his thoughts on the game,” Amalraj said.

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