Mohammed Habib, the playmaker par excellence in the history of Indian football is no more. He was 74 and suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s syndrome for the last couple of years.
He is survived by his wife and three daughters.
Habib represented India in many international tournaments from 1965-76. He was considered by many experts as one of the best players the country has ever produced.
He was also a bronze medallist in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok led by his fellow Hyderabadi Syed Nayeemuddin and managed by the great P.K. Banerjee.
One of the highest points of Habib’s career was when he played for Mohun Bagan against the visiting Cosmos Club which also featured the legendary Pele in 1977 in a ‘friendly’.
“It will remain one of my greatest moments and which was appreciated by Pele himself at the end of the match, hugging me and wishing me best of luck wishes,” Habib had once told Sportstar in one of his interviews.
During many conversations over the years, Habib always took pride in reminding me that it was with great pride that he wore the jersey of Mohammedan Sporting whom he joined in 1971.
For 17 long seasons starting from 1966-77, Habib, despite his diminutive nature, was a stalwart walking on the football grounds in Kolkata, according to former India captain and Hyderabadi Victor Amalraj.
Habib was also instrumental in shaping the Tata Football Academy into a force to reckon with his sincerity, passion and professionalism.
In fact, Habib’s younger brother Mohammed Akbar was also a brilliant footballer who dominated the Kolkata maidan for a long time.
“It is a sad feeling to see him suffering from this syndrome for he was such a gifted footballer who on his day was the most-dreaded striker, mentored and moulded in his latter half of his career by the great P.K. Banerjee,” Amalraj recalled.
“I have seen fans mob Habib in Kolkata where he is some sort of a God given his awesome reputation as a player. Not many be aware that Habib, a product of City College Old Boys (Hyderabad), pushed East Bengal to new heights of excellence helping it win almost every major trophy in the early ‘70s’ said the former international, who had the distinction of leading all the three big clubs of Kolkata - East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.
“I learnt many tricks from Habib bhai,” said an emotional Amalraj.
Interestingly, Habib had great influence on even Amalraj with the latter playing under him and also vice-versa between 1978-82. “I have learnt many tricks from Habib Bhai,” he says.
Telangana Football Association President Mohd Ali Rafath, Secretary G. Palguna, TFA chairman and also the owner of Sreenidi FC Dr K.T. Mahi, and Hyderabad FC owner Varun Tripuraneni were among those who expressed condolences.
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