Remembering Syed Abdul Rahim, Hyderabad’s legendary football coach

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: When one thinks of football, India, leave alone Hyderabad, does not usually come to mind. Which is why exactly why many would be surprised to know that in the post independence period, a Hyderabadi coach had led the country’s football team to a gold medal in the 1962 Asian games in Jakarta, and to incredible heights in the sport.

The genius behind it was none other than Syed Abdul Rahim, a Hyderabadi from Malakpet, who rose from the gullies of Hyderabad playing for local teams under the British and the city’s nobility to becoming the national football team’s coach. All of this has been captured in the movie starring Ajay Devgan Maidaan, which recently released and tells the story of Rahim, and how he built a team under extraordinary circumstances and unfavourable conditions.

“It was a remarkable achievement for the Indian team winning gold in 1962 given that the team played in a hostile environment in Jakarta. It included a very cold reception while they were receiving their medal,” said Rabia Jaffer, who has done the research for Maidaan and has dug out everything she could about Hyderabad’s glorious football history.

The win at Jakarta was a mighty achievement as tension was built after an an Indian diplomat publicly criticised the decision of not allowing Israel and Taiwan to play in the competition. it angered the people of Indonesia, leading to public protests against the Indian team. All of this history of Hyderabad is today unfortunately forgotten as football is not a venerated sport like cricket.

However it is important to know about the city’s past and personalities like Rahim who could have perhaps changed the country’s destiny for sports had it not been for his demise in 1963.

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Football and Hyderabad

Like in most Indian cities, football was introduced by the British for recreation and they had their own teams. That is how Syed Abdul Rahim himself began playing. “He was a remarkable player to watch out for. He was also in Raja Dhanrajgir’s team and they were just playing against the British. He eventually began coaching and Rahim is the one person who coached a school, college, university (Osmania) and the national team,” pointed out Rabia Jaffer.

She added that decades ago, the Hyderabad City Football Club was one place which would attract a lot of players, as they would get support in the form of jobs as well. “Lot of Hyderabadi players had elaborate jobs in customs. Rahim’s son Hakim also had a job in the Air Force similarly. There was no money in football,” stated Jaffer.

However, regardless of the hurdles, Syed Abdul Rahim trudged down the path of building a national team. And the opening scene of the movie Maidaan perhaps captures that best – barefoot Indian footballers losing 10-1 in 1952 in Yugoslavia (which does not exist anymore). From there on it was Rahim taking it upon himself to find the best players and to build the best Indian team.

Maidaan is biopic on Hyderabad's legendary football coach Rahim; will release on June 23

”Hyderabad had so much potential back in the day. That is why my work or research started. Syed Abdul Rahim was phenomenal, nobody had anything bad to say about him. He would go scouting for new players and had touched so many lives,” said Jaffer, adding that footballers then did not really follow diets.

“In the Hyderabad City Police team, they just ate dal rice and stayed in their barracks. Patriotism was then the uniform. Performing in sports before independence became a matter of nationalism as Indians realised they could beat the British,” she told As the movie Maidaan shows, one of the bigger achievements of the Indian team under Syed Abdul Rahim was a 7-1 win over Australia in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics. It was followed by the spectacular gold at the 1962 Asian Games.

However, after Rahim’s death due to cancer, and due to lack of support in general in the following years, all that he had built slowly dissipated. And that is how Hyderabad forgot its glory days of football, says Jaffer.

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