By Azhikkakath Joseph Antony
Few will believe four football Olympians have emerged from the dusty field in Vijay Nagar Colony that has been home to the Hyderabad Sporting Club (HSC) established in 1939. With not a blade of grass to cool or cushion their feet, it was here that S.A. Salam, Mohd. Zulfakaruddin, S.H.H. Hamed and Ahmed Hussain (Lala) fine-tuned their footwork.
In the colonial era, the Nizam’s princes played polo on horses in the sprawling open fields, largely uninhabited. In the locality of Mallepally, the Jolly Comrades was in decline, prompting one of its players, Syed Abdul Waheed, to form the team, a clone perhaps of the Calcutta giant Mohammedan Sporting, going by the name.
Waheed found support in siblings Mohd Abdul Razak and Mohd Abdul Manan as did patronage come from a Bahrain-based Arab, locally known as Chaoos. The Secunderabad cantonment set up by the British had spawned a string of soccer clubs and residents of the older of the Twin Cities couldn’t quite resist the charms of the beautiful game.
In just a decade of its existence, HSC produced its first international. Khursheed Ahmed Ansari represented India at the 1948-49 Quadrangular tournament in what then was known as Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). Pakistan and Burma were the other participating nations. By the mid-50s, a promising crop of talent, including future Olympian Ahmed Hussain emerged.
Several of them were roped in by Hyderabad City Police (HCP) who would rule the football firmament across the country for quite a while. While there were no great rewards for HCP players, there was recognition.
“Shiv Kumar Lal, then the Inspector General, would have a motorcade waiting for players arriving at Nampally railway station. A police jeep would be set aside for every player who would stand and wave to the crowds as the vehicle wove its way across the city,” reminisced Prabhakar Nair, HSC Vice President.
Few will believe four football Olympians have emerged from the dusty field in Vijay Nagar Colony that has been home to the Hyderabad Sporting Club (HSC) established in 1939. Even if seen as a sinking ship, its crew refuses to abandon it, grimly holding on to its glorious, over eight-decade old soccer legacy.
Despite its loss of personnel to HCP, Sporting made its mark on the national stage not much later. In the 1954 Indian Football Association (IFA) Shield final, HSC held its own against Mohun Bagan before succumbing by a solitary goal.
The subsequent decline of Hyderabad football may be attributed largely to three causes, viz; shrinking city spaces for the game owing to large-scale encroachment by land sharks, declining patronage and long-drawn litigation. While HSC wrestled with the second mostly, it steadfastly stood its ground when efforts were made to usurp its land to build a housing colony.
“Members and players lay down at the periphery to defend their precious turf after workmen arrived for the demolition job. It will be over our dead bodies, some said,” recalled Ahmed Mohiuddin Ali, another Vice-President. A procession was then taken to the chief minister’s residence and pressure persisted with. Permission was granted to retain the space on condition that it would be used only for football.
The HSC has been fortunate to have had its share of office-bearers committed to the game’s cause above everything else. It rigidly refused to lease the ground for religious gatherings, sales and exhibitions, even at the expense of losing out on revenue that would accrue from them. Sultan Bin Ahmed, the current Secretary, arranges for watering of the parched earth from meagre resources, ground water levels dropping drastically, since the ground’s the only open space, amidst a concrete jungle, akin perhaps to an oasis in a desert.
Hyderabad Sporting nurtures players for the Rahim League for A division sides, its affiliates Deccan Sporting and Young Sporting competing in the B and C divisions respectively. Despite all the difficulties, HSC’s Zubair Bin Sultan, from the 800 called for Pune FC selection trials, made it to the top 20.
Even if Sporting’s seen as a sinking ship, its crew refuses to abandon it, grimly holding on to its glorious, over eight-decade old soccer legacy.