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Five former footballers who lived in poverty and neglect

Five former footballers who lived in poverty and neglect

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 9 Feb 2021 9:32 AM GMT

India might have a rich sporting history but giving our sportsmen the recognition that they deserve is not something we have always been great at. For a cricket-crazy nation, this has been a huge hurdle towards maintaining a steady pool of talent when it comes to other sports wherein parents don’t consider them as viable career options for their kids. Football is one such sport and although the Indian football team in the 50s and 60s was a force to be reckoned with, the condition in which some of the players from that era found themselves post their retirement isn’t the best advertisement for youngsters to take up the beautiful game. Here are five such legendary players who got way less than their due and either passed away in poverty or are living in neglect-

Bir Bahadur

Also known as the ‘Forward Cheetah’, Bahadur represented India in the 1966 Bangkok Asiad and played for Services between 1960 and 1970. He also scored a hat-trick against Denmark in 1962 and through the decade, featured in all the major tournaments like Rover’s Cup, Santosh Trophy, DCM Trophy and Durand Cup. Once a feared striker, he had to resort to selling ‘chaat’ and ‘pani puri’ at the Bolarum downtown locality in Hyderabad to make ends meet after falling into debt. The prolific goalscorer, who was a regular alongside the likes of Peter Thangaraj, Nayeemuddin and Yousuf Khan, eventually slipped into a coma last year at the start of lockdown and passed away later in May.


Mohammed Yousuf Khan

Yousuf Khan is still considered to be one of the best all-round footballers India has ever produced. The ‘Bearded Horse’, as he was called due to his appearance combined with his stamina on the pitch, played a major role in India’s win in the 1962 Asian Games and was later honoured with the Arjuna Award. However, things took a turn for the worst after that as the legendary player suffered from Parkinson’s as a result of the multiple head injuries that he had sustained as a player. With no help forthcoming from the government or the football federation, he eventually died of a heart attack in 2006.

Mohammed Salim

The first Indian to play for a foreign club, Mohammed Salim was a star in his own right. He was arguably the best player in the all-conquering Mohammedan Sporting side of the 30s and went on to play for Celtic in the Scottish first division, that too barefoot. His balance, poise and skill left the Scottish public mesmerized and he was offered a chance to extend his stay in Europe. However, a proud man himself, Salim chose to come back to India. He later fell ill and eventually died at the age of 76 but what is a matter of huge disappointment is that the young generation haven’t even heard of this man who challenged the colonizers with a ball at his feet and even managed to get them to tip their hat for him.


Amar Bahadur

An integral part of India’s 1970 Bangkok Asian Games side, it was his goal against Japan that gave India the bronze medal. He began his career with the Gorkha Brigade before quitting the army in 1967 and joining Mumbai’s Mafatlal. He also went on to represent India on a number of occasions in the late 60s and early 70s. After retirement, he moved back to his hometown Dehradun where he formed FC Doon, a club that participates in the local football league. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and never really recovered fully, eventually dying of Jaundice in 2016. He is another one of those whose death did not make it to the national news even after all his accolades as an army man and as a footballer.

Tulsidas Balaram

The only former player in this list who is alive and well, Tulsidas Balaram was a part of the tremendous trio of the 50s which also included Chuni Goswami and PK Banerjee. One of the biggest stars of India’s 1962 Asian Games gold medal effort, the veteran now lives alone in Uttarpara in the north-eastern suburb of Kolkata. Besides the 1962 gold, he also has against his name a fourth-place finish in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and a runners-up medal in 1959 Merdeka. Due to a lung infection, Balaram had to retire at the age of 27 at the peak of his powers. He even served as the national selector at the All India Football Federation (AIFF) but was reportedly a victim of the politics inside the federation which ultimately resulted in him resigning. Now mostly forgotten by the government and the federation, Balaram sits comfortably in his flat, content with the knowledge that he was a part of India’s strongest ever football team.

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