Hyderabad: He was the Badshah of Calcutta league in the 70s and 80s. A dangerous striker of the ball, Mohammed Akbar had a phenomenal record as a goal scorer while playing for Mohammedan Sporting, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Most of the occasions, he was on the top of the goals’ list and in 1978, he struck as many as 35 goals. Akbar was one of the most sought after players then and the Big Three often use to literally fight for this mercurial Hyderabad forward. But whichever club he played, Akbar never disappointed with his lethal strikes. “Somehow I had the knack of getting a goal in the crucial moments of the game or in a big match,’’ recalled Akbar.
Football was in Akbar’s blood and all of the six brothers left an indelible mark in this game. The eldest Mohd Azam played for the famous Hyderabad Police team of 50s and was also an international referee. Mohd Moin was a defender for Mohammedan Sporting while Mohd Fareed Siddique represented the Police team for 20 years. Mohd Habib was known as Indian `Pele’ and he had carved a niche for himself in the Calcutta league also in Indian football. Fifth was Akbar while Mohd Jaffer played for the AP Police team.
“It is always good to see all the brothers playing and excelling in the game. My elder brothers had a big influence on my game and career. The most exciting part was when Habib and I played together or against each other in the Calcutta league,’’ added Akbar.
He first played for Arsenal Club in 1965 and then Hyderabad Sporting Club. He was with Hyderabad Police for three years before in 1971 he took a big stride by joining Mohammedan Sporting. It started a glorious career as he grew in stature. “I played for Indian Youth team for two years in Tokyo and Bangkok in 1971 and 72. I represented Andhra Pradesh team in the Junior Nationals and the senior team till 1971. But once I moved to Calcutta, it was no looking back.’’
Talking about the football scenario of Kolkata then in 70s and 80s, Akbar said the crowd was very passionate about the game. “There was a lot of pressure whenever there was a big match. The expectations were also very high. It was all about handling the pressure but in big matches, I could get a get goal. I always had sleepless nights a day before the match. Luckily, I never disappointed my fans,’’ said Akbar.
He played in the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia and in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1978. “Those there were not many tournaments to represent the country. But I enjoyed playing for the big three in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and apart from Kolkata. There was always a massive crowd in Eden Gardens in Kolkata.’’
Coached by S Hussain, who was assistant to late SA Rahim, Akbar said he was also fortunate to be trained under PK Banerjee, Arun Ghosh and GM Basha. “Captaining and playing for Bengal in the Santosh Trophy gave a different high also. I do have fond memories playing in Calcutta then,’’ said Akbar, who retired while working in Geological Survey of India. He returned to Hyderabad in 1985.
According to Victor Amalraj, Akbar was an opportunistic striker of the ball. “I played both with Habib and Akbar. The canny Habib had an all-round game, marshalling the midfield excellently while the quick-silver Akbar lurked dangerously in the striking zone. He would convert half chances with his sharp shooting skills. The two brothers were always in big demand in Calcutta then,’’ said Amalraj, who captained the big three clubs of the then Calcutta league.
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