Habib, suffering from Parkinson's but still high in spirts

Former India footballer Mohd. Habib remembers the match against the legendary Pele's Cosmos Club at Eden Gardens in 1977 where he scored a goal.

Happy times: Football greats of yesteryear Victor Amalraj (back), Mohd Akbar, John Victor, Mohd Habib and Latifuddin Nazam at a get together sometime back.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

It was an attempt to unlock some of the golden memories they shared on the field. But it turned out to be a heart-breaking experience for Victor Amalraj, the former India footballer, when he called up his contemporary Mohd. Habib, now suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The diminutive Habib, who was an epitome of class and teamwork instilling the desired coordination, is very eager to see some of his team-mates from yesteryears, says Amalraj in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.

"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,” he recalls.

“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,” says Amalraj, who has the rare distinction of leading all three Kolkata giants — East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Mohammadan Sporting.

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Amalraj also reminds that Habib warded off stiff competition from many big names including his own brother Mohd. Akbar to hold his own special place in the big league.

“Fortunately, unlike many footballers of yesteryears, Habib is not in financial distress, but always a sorry sight to see a champion sportsperson go through this kind of phase especially when you adored him as a team-mate and captain (interestingly Amal played under Habib and vice versa in a five-year span between 1978-82 for Sporting and East Bengal),” says Amalraj.

“I have learnt many tricks from Habib Bhai,” he says.

Seventy-year-old Habib still manages to recall with Amalraj “that unforgettable experience of playing for Mohun Bagan against the legendary Pele’s Cosmos Club at Eden Gardens in 1977 in which I scored a goal also”.

"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 goes down memory lane.

Amalraj says it is a pity that those who govern the sport in the city, which was once the cradle of football talent of India, failed to utilise his services perhaps not remembering the way he shaped Tata Football Academy into a powerhouse with his professional approach as its head.

“We sincerely wish that Habib recovers well and leads a far more healthier life,” signs off Amalraj.

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