Former Indian national team forward and Mohun Bagan legend Shyam Thapa said that the death of Mohammed Habib felt very personal for him.
Habib, who passed away aged 74 in Hyderabad on Tuesday, was one of the most prominent players in the Kolkata maidan circuit in the 1970s, playing for all the big three in the city, namely East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.
“The passing away of Habib is a personal loss for me. I have very fond memories of playing with Habib. He was a great fighter and despite his relatively small frame was all about fortitude when he was on the pitch,” Thapa, who had been a teammate of Habib at the club as well as national level, told Sportstar.
“His level of motivation is hard to come by as he would always tell us to go for it whatever the stature of the opposition.”
The most important memory of the duo in the Indian football circle, however, is a goal by each of the two against Cosmos, featuring Brazilian legend Pele in 1977.
“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 the best of luck wishes,” Habib had once told Sportstar in one of his interviews.
Thapa and Habib were an integral part of the Indian team that won the bronze medal at the Asian Games and the Merdeka Cup in 1970 and 1971, respectively.
“I can vividly remember his performance in the 1970 Asian Games when we were the youngsters in the team and were overjoyed to win the Bronze. We played many tournaments for India and also for our club East Bengal.
“In Kolkata, where he spent the best part of his career, he was popular as ‘Bade Mian’ and would remain the voice of wisdom during the matches. We used to travel to the ground together in public transport and would enjoy the wishes and advice of the fans which would charge us up to give our best in the match,” Thapa added.
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