Football greats and former India captains – Shabbir Ali and Victor Amalraj – feel that with Hyderabad FC making its debut in the ISL, the players from the State have a target to chase and make it big in the sport in the coming years.
“For long, the players from Telangana, especially from Hyderabad, had suffered for want of exposure and lack of competition even at home,” Shabbir said during a webchat organised by HFC in which Amalraj, TFA Secretary G.P. Palguna and TFA coaches committee convenor Syed Arif also took part.
“Yes, in our days we had to look to Kolkata or Mumbai for better opportunities by playing for the big clubs there. Now, the young talent has HFC which could well provide it the platform to showcase the skills,” said Shabbir, who scored 35 international goals for India.
For his part, Amalraj said that with the Telangana State Government coming up with a new Sports Policy and given the infrastructure available, the onus is on the young footballers and the TFA officials to take the sport forward.
“Definitely, the way football is played now is so different and very professional. Not even the best of the young talent can take anything for granted. One needs to put in a lot of effort to make an impact at the highest level,” Amalraj said.
“If you look at the quality of players in the ISL, it is obvious the State players have to step into a different zone and it is possible if everyone concerned including the TFA, the Government and the Corporates support the sport in a big way,” he said.
Shabbir said that compared to his days as one of the top stars of Indian football, the modern day players don’t have the job security which is so important.
“Any parent will be looking for job opportunities for their kids as they dream to make it big in sport. So, unless they get that assuring touch, they will not be able to make headway,” he said.
The two footballers also went down memory lane with Shabbir recalling the goals he scored against Iran in 1974 and Bahrain in 1979 for India as being the most memorable while Amalraj recalled that his goal for Mohun Bagan against Punjab Police in the 1987 IFA Shield final when his team won 2-0 at Salt Lake Stadium was his best.
And, both Shabbir and Amalraj felt that huge crowds that turned up for most of the matches were a big inspiration for them to take their game to the next level.
The duo also felt that Hyderabad football suffered a slump of sorts between 1980 and 2010 because of lack of quality competitive circuit at home and also with the other States, especially from North East, improving by leaps and bounds.
"Well, I have come from a family which was against me playing the game till I started doing well with my first club - Abbas Union FC in Hyderabad League," said Shabbir while Amalraj thanked his elder brother, late John Victor for pushing him to play in Kolkata where he eventually had the rare distinction of leading all the big three clubs - Mohun Bagan, Mohammadan Sporting and East Bengal.
“We still have the football culture because of the rich legacy of so many great footballers of yesteryears. There is abundance of talent even now but needs to be shown the way to move up the ladder,” Shabbir and Amal felt.
TFA Secretary Palguna says that things will change for the good what with the HFC recently conducting under-18 selections. He even suggested to the HFC to use the international standard football grounds at Sreenidhi FC near here for their regular practice sessions to motivate the young talent there.
All the panelists agreed that the City with a rich football legacy can be the hub of the sport again if HFC pulls off a major surprise in the ISL. “We need big stars to inspire the younger lot.”
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