‘JK football players lack commitment’
UNSUNG HEROES OF JK FOOTBALL
He was favourite of football fans of yesteryears. He was banned by the JKFA for three years for creating indiscipline, but due to public pressure the ban had to be revoked immediately. Muhammad Haneef in an interview with GK sports correspondent Abid Khan shares memorable moments of his career
Q: How you started playing football”
There were three playing fields in Goni Khan vicinity where I used to live. Now LD Hospital, Children’s Park and Iqbal Park exist there. Some old clubs used to practice in these fields and seeing them playing, I got attracted towards the game. In 1969 I joined Muhammedan Sports and played for them for one full season. Next year I joined State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC), but I was kept on sidelines for two years. During those two years, I worked hard to earn place in the team.
After two years I got my first chance to play for SRTC main team. It was match against Badami Bagh Army-XI. In my debut match I scored a goal. So with that my football journey started. During same year I was selected for Santosh Trophy. After that I played for SRTC in all the state and national level events which included Durand, DCM and Rovers as well.
In 1987 I retired as player from professional football. After that I was coach of Iqbal Sports Club for couple of years.
Q: It would have been tough for you to remain on sidelines for two years?
I kept telling myself that I have to grab the chance whenever it comes my way. It was mentally tough to remain on sidelines for two years waiting for the call. But I kept my morale high and worked hard. When I finally got the chance I grabbed that and never looked back.
Q: Major achievements of your career?
I achieved a lot in my career. I represented the State in seven Santosh Trophy events held in JK, Orissa, Kerala, Madras, Punjab and Kolkatta. In prestigious Durand cup I played for SRTC 10 times while in Rovers Cup held in Mumbai, I played eight times. In DCM event I played once while in national Civil Secretariat meet I played around ten times. In short I have played in all the major national level events of my time.
I also participated in junior national level event. Though at that time I was over age but due to my height and physique I was adjusted by the Association in JK squad. I helped my team to reach to semi-final level and scored a goal in each match.
Q: Memorable moments of your football journey?
Once in protest against my Department I played in two matches for two different teams. It happened at Bakshi Stadium. In first match I played from Muhammedan Sports against SRTC. The match lasted for more than allotted time of 1:30 hours as it went into extra time.
Shortly after that another match was played at the same venue between Food and Supplies and Police-XI. In protest against my department (SRTC) I changed my jersey instantly and played for Police-XI in that match. In total I played for more than three hours continuously. On both the occasions I was on winning side and even went on to score goal for Police. The result of that kind of protest was instant as I was given promotion after that.
After some time I again went on to protest towards callous attitude of my departments towards me. So that time I joined Food and Supplies team. The skipper of SRTC team Farooq Ahmad came to me and took me to head office where they motivated me to join back which I did. But F&S-XI were not accepting my resignation and I had to send that by post to them.
In Mumbai during playing for my team in Rovers Cup, I performed very well and my name was mentioned in sports weekly published from Kolkatta among best performers along with two Kashmiri’s Muhammad Yousuf Dar and Khursheed Baba.
In All India Civil Secretariat meet held in Chandigarh I played so well that spectators in the stadium were chanting number 6, number 6 the number of my jersey number. At that time I was awarded by Indian athletic legend Milkha Singh and he lauded me for my performance.
Q: Did you face any disciplinary action for playing against you own team?
During my playing career I was always outspoken and never used to get intimidated. Because of that I faced several disciplinary actions. Once during Santosh Trophy campaign in Orissa, our team was playing against Manipur. Coach left me out of playing-XI and our team conceded two goals.
During closing minutes the coach told me to get in, but I refused. I told him that I am no miracle man who can rescue the team from such a position. I told him you should have sent me in early.
Whenever I found that I am not getting the respect which I should get I raised objections. Twice I returned from Jammu leaving the team midway when I found myself not getting respect.
Q: There is popular incident of you being banned and than revoked on public pressure?
Yes, I remember that and I reckon that was one of proudest moment of my career. We were playing at Bakshi stadium. During middle of the game referee awarded foul against Abdul Majeed Kakroo who was in my team. I argued with the referee and he showed me yellow card. I snatched that card from him and tore that into pieces. Then he showed me red card. I again snatched it and tore that too into pieces. It all happened in front of people at Bakshi Stadium.
For that action, I was banned for five years by the disciplinary committee of J&K Football Association. But keeping my stature as a player in mind, then Director General Youth Services and Sports and former JKFA president Nazir Ahmad Khan and others pleaded my case and persuaded the committee to reduce the ban to three years.
During same period, SRTC was playing final of the event against Masoore team at Bakshi Stadium. When match was about to start visiting team was ready on field but host team was nowhere. When enquired by organizers they found that bus has been stopped by spectators outside the field. They were demanding revocation of my ban and had taken bus hostage. The organizers and JKFA officials had no alternative but to revoke my ban. I played in that game. It was love of people and I still reckon that my biggest achievement till date. I gave everything to enthrall spectators.
Q: You were nicknamed Ayalbaar. Why was that?
I always used to give more than 100 percent whenever I was on field. I never restricted myself to any particular part of the field and used to roam/run throughout. I used to take a lot of pressure/responsibility on my shoulders like a head of a family. For that reason people nicknamed me Ayalbaar meaning head of family/team. For me it is an honor given by football lovers of the Valley.
Q: Why JK team is not performing well in national events?
There are several reasons. During our time the reason for our lackluster performance was lack of facilities. We were getting only three days of practice before going to any national event. Sometime even without that. So what could we have done without match practice? The other reason was that we had never seen any coach nor was there any one to train us. At SRTC team, Muhammad Yousuf Dar who is FIFA qualified coach and was part of our team as player used to impart tit bits of football to us. Apart from that we were learning seeing each other play.
However, lot has changed since our time. Team is getting enough time to prepare and have also good coaches available. Even the television has revolutionized the game and players learn a lot from watching international games. I think the only reason why our team is not performing up to the mark is lack of commitment. We used to play for winning hearts of fans while today players play only for money. There is nothing bad in that but they should give hundred percent every time. Nothing is bigger than playing for your State.
Q: What is the difference between your time and today?
There is a lot of difference. Though technically current players are way ahead than ours, they somehow lack to win hearts of fans. In our time the SRTC-XI daily morning practice sessions used to attract more spectators than today’s big league matches. Such was love of the game. You will not believe players like me are being liked by the fans even after retirement. After my retirement from SRTC, one of my fans Muzamil Rashid of Suzuki Motors gave me a job only on the basis me being a footballer and he proudly presents me in front of his customers saying Ayalbaar is here. It only happened because we gave our best in each match and never performed less than the expectations.
Q: What should be done to promote football in the State?
Without government support nothing can be done and ironically they are doing nothing. In our time there were only seven to eight teams. But talented players were being provided employment in departmental teams.
Currently there are number of teams but only a few players get jobs as most of the teams are run by private clubs and departmental teams have been shut.
The other main set back for the decline of football standard in our Valley is conversion of playing field into parks and gardens. The Government instead of developing new playing fields and stadiums is converting existing ones into parks and gardens.
If the trend continues, time will come when there will be no space to play football. Government should give serious thought towards development of number one sport of the Valley. Players should be given job security and more and more playing fields should be developed. These are two basic things which are essential for its growth.
Q: How you feel on seeing SRTC team being shut?
It hurts a lot. Whatever I am is because of football and most of my career revolves around the SRTC. It has produced number of stalwarts for the state and people were following it madly. It shows how much support football is getting from the government.
During our time management used to respect us a lot and we were being provided every facility that was available. Even our captain Farooq recruited number of persons in the team and management never refused his recruitment suggestions. Such was mutual respect. We brought laurels for the State every where we played. I hope government will think seriously and will help the SRTC team to revive.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 26 Dec 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 26 Dec 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 27 Dec 2011 00:00:00 IST
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