SS Hakim – Nobody Gave Rahim Saab An Award

While the defeat to Guam has saddened the fans of  the Indian football team, Sports Rediscovered takes a look at a time and a time and age when the Indian football team finished fourth in the Olympic Games thanks to the pioneering coaching methods of Syed Abdul Rahim.

Shariq Khan had the opportunity to speak to SS Hakeem, the son of Rahim Sir and a great Indian football player who represented Indian in the 1960 Rome Olympics. In this interview, Hakeem provides an honest view of Indian football.

While , the readers may choose to agree or disagree with SS Hakeem, one thing is for sure..

“A society that does not pay its respects to its teachers and coaches will not be able to replicate its earlier success. ” It is still not too late to award Rahim Saab.

SS Hakeem

Indian Olympian SS Hakeem courtesy Hindustan Football Club

SR: Tell us a bit about Rahim Sir ?

SS Hakim: Rahim Saab used to play for many clubs. In his time in Hyderabad, it was not like one player can play for one team only. He played for Osmania University, C. T. College and others. Those were his playing days. After that he was National Referee. Back then, there were not FIFA referees. There used to be a National Referee. He refereed in Calcutta and even in Colombo.

He was coach of India from 1951 to 1962. In ’51 and ’62 he got Asian Games Gold medal. He went twice and both the times he won gold. In ’56 Olympics it was 4th position. 1960 Olympics it was sixth position. Unbeaten Runners-up in Manila Cup, Malaysia Cup.

And there used to be another quadrangular tournament called Colombo Cup played between India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. It was conducted thrice from ’52 to ’55. He went thrice and was champion each time. These were his main achievements with India.

SR: Please tell us a bit about the tactical innovations brought about by Rahim Sir ?

SS Hakim: He started the ‘Three-Back’ System in India. In India that system had never been followed before. It is also known as WM formation. The Three Back System is also known as WM formation. W for way M for motor.

After that he introduced the 4-2-4 system. It was also known as Withdrawal system. For the Olympic tournament he ordered the switch to the 4-2-4 formation. Before him no one in the world was using that formation. He started it for the first time in 1956.

SR: Sir, what were the different ways in which he motivated the participation of Young players?

SS Hakim: In his time, he started ten tournaments in Hyderabad for the young players. Right inside the city there were ten tournaments for young players and students. He motivated student participation and then took them for coaching camps. There were camps during Summer holidays. Hyderabad was the only place where so many tournaments were being organized for youth. Fixed height tournaments were there. There were tournaments being hosted in the parks. 5-a-side and 7-a-side tournaments.

SR: Okay Sir. So that is all on the footballing side. How was Rahim Sir as a person? Was he very strict?

SS Hakim: He was a teacher. By teacher I mean he was Principal of a high school and also became Vice Principal at a College. The most important thing was that he practiced what he preached. He didn’t just go around lecturing people. He would practice it himself.

His character was above gold. I’ve never seen a man of such a strong character. He never let his players consume alcohol. He never let the players smoke. He never let any bad things come close to him or his team. He was very strict. The players were very much scared of him. He removed some senior players from the team for indulgence in bad habits.

All the players respected him because he was a very kind man. He helped his players whenever they needed any help. He paid his players out of his own money. He paid his staff also from his own money.

SR: So that means he stressed on the importance of discipline in player life.

SS Hakim: Yes. Discipline was most important to him. But Discipline does not mean that he went after the players with a stick in his hand or anything like that. He would lead by example. When he said that no one will remain outside the hotel after 9PM, he would himself get back to the hotel by 8PM. By watching him the players themselves would think ‘How can we stay outside when Saab himself is inside’. That was a great quality he had.

SR: Sir, how was your own experience of playing at the Olympics?

SS Hakim: It’s a very big achievement to be able to go for the Olympics. Just being part of a team that played in the Olympics is a matter of immense pride. The result we got in the Rome Olympics, India had never had such a great result before that. Even though we were fourth in Australia, in Rome the results were more important. We lost to Hungary by one goal, drew with France and  lost against Peru by two goals. Even in that we were winning against France. This result can never be matched now by India.

SR: Sir, another question I wanted to ask you is that when Rahim Saab died at a very young age, 1962 Asian Games was his last tournament *Hakim interrupts*

SS Hakim: Yes. He died on 11 June 1963. Neither did the Football Federation nor Government of India nor Government of Andhra Pradesh gave him any award.

SR: Sir, so in the final stages of his life, he knew that he was sick, so did his behavior change in those final days?

SS Hakim: He was not scared. Anyone can die at anytime. One can die while Sitting and having a conversation with someone. So everyone has to die. It’s just that he would get fatigued too quickly. Body had become weak. When there is pain even great bodybuilders get fatigued. But he was not scared of Death. He had never done anything wrong in his life. He was going back to Allah so where was the need for fear? It was just that Cancer was an incurable disease back then. It made his body weak so that weakness was there.

SR: How did Indian Football change so drastically after Rahim Sir’s death?

SS Hakim: After Rahim Saab’s death upto 1970 the condition was okay because the players he had trained played until ’65-’65. In 1070 Asian games India won the Bronze medal again. G.M.H. Basha was the coach at that time. In 1982 Asian games we had the last good performance. In the quarter-finals Saudi beat us by one goal after India dominated for most of the game. P.K. Bannerjee, myself and Arun Ghosh were the coaches in ’82. Since then there has been no good performance.

SR: What is the reason for that decline in performance Sir?

SS Hakim: Football is no more being played in schools. In our times, there used to be a lot of football being played in schools and colleges. Now all the school level and college level tournaments are finished.

Number two, All the good tournaments have been killed. Rovers Cup is almost a 100 years old tournament of Bombay. The tournament has not been conducted for 12-15 years. He doesn’t care about it. Nizam Gold Cup of Hyderabad is dead. Shefford Cup of Bangalore is dead now.

All the tournaments which were being organized in Hyderabad are dead now. All tournament’s of Kerala are finished. There used to be Kolar Gold Field in Karnataka, that is also finished now. There are no tournaments left anymore in Hindustan for the teams to play in.

Now you have I-league in which only 14 teams take part. 14 teams is not football. It should be more number of teams according to India’s population.

SR: Do you think people’s interest in football has also gone down?

SS Hakim: Why will the people take interest? When there are no tournaments why will people take interest in football? When there used to be tournaments people used to come and watch. Now there are no tournaments, what will the people watch?

When that football culture died with the tournaments, the standard of the game went down. Now people watch the good matches on TV. Why will they come to watch football anymore when they can watch the EPL and other good leagues on TV? Why will they pay to come and watch Durand Cup? The standard has gone down completely.

But the interest will definitely rise. You start all the tournaments again and the interest will also rise again. Because football is the most popular game of the world. Even today in India also it is the most popular game. People say it is Cricket but it is not correct. From Kashmir to Kedarnath and from Assam to Bombay if a local football match will be played, if not more at least 200-300 people will come to watch it. However, if there will be a Ranji Trophy match between Bombay and Delhi not even 25 men will come to watch it.

SR: So, last question to you Sir. How do you think Indian football can be revived? What steps need to be taken?

SS Hakim: First, tournaments at district level. Number two, start tournaments in Schools and Colleges. Start tournament for clubs. At local level and All India level. Until there is no competitive football and the children as young as 7-8 years old will not start playing in competitive football nothing will change. When I was 6 years old we had Inter-Primary competitions. When I was in college I played in the state cup. Only through competitions the football can be revived.

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