Kolkata, Aug 28 (IANS) A pall of gloom descended on the football fraternity here as legends of the game hailed the contribution of double Olympian and East Bengal legend Ahmed Khan who breathed his last in Bengaluru on Sunday.
“I really have been in awe of him. That’s all I can say. Everyone knows the rest,” said Chuni Goswami, who captained India to the gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games.
Goswami had been part of the Santosh Trophy winning Bengal team in 1955 under Ahmed Khan’s captaincy.
“He was one of India’s finest,” said former India captain and coach P.K. Banerjee.
Khan donned the Indian jersey in two Olympic Games — 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki). The ace forward, affectionately called ‘snake charmer’ for his dribbling and ball control, was also part of India’s gold medal winning 1951 Asian Games team in New Delhi.
“There were few footballers who could play like him. As a human being also, he was of the highest order. I remember an incident where I was playing for Eastern Railways and he was playing for East Bengal. I got injured during the match.
“After the game, Ahmed came up to me and expressed his concern. From that day onwards, I got to know about Ahmed Khan the human being,” Banerjee said.
Khan was also the last of India’s golden generation of barefooted footballers.
“When he was forced to wear shoes, he felt discomfort but he was still good enough,” former India defender and Olympian and Asian Games gold medallist Arun Ghosh told IANS.
“I don’t remember the year but I was the coach of Mohun Bagan and we had lost in a semi-final of a tournament in Hyderabad. I was dejected and came back to my room and laid down. Suddenly, Ahmed Khan came to my room and said ‘Arun, losing is part of the game. Cheer up.’ He was not only a gifted player but a very compassionate human being,” said Ghosh.
Former soccer international and eminent coach Subhash Bhowmik turned emotional as he recalled his interactions with the legend.
“I met him many times. He was a perfect gentleman. I saw him play when I was very young. I can only say in today’s time, if he was playing he would have been a great withdrawn forward. He was ahead of his time.
“Once I heard him sayil “jo sikhna hai sikhlo, jo sikhana hai sikhado (what you want to learn, learn and what you wanted them to learn, make them learn). I used his lines to inspire East Bengal team during the 2004 ASEAN Cup final.”
“He was mad about East Bengal,” said Bhowmick.
Khan spent a decade playing for the city soccer giants between 1949 and 1959.
It was at East Bengal that Khan formed the ‘Five Pandavas’ of the club who, besides him, comprised legendary forwards Dhanraj, Appa Rao, Saleh and Venkatesh.
The forwards helped East Bengal bag the IFA Shield, the Kolkata league and the Rovers Cup in 1949 and become the first Indian club to win the Durand Cup in 1951.
Based out of Bengaluru, Khan would be buried on Monday afternoon, Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) officials informed.
“There is mourning all around. His house is full with his wellwishers and we will have the last rites ceremony soon,” KFSA A.R. Khaleel said.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.