Way back in the 1950s a group of youths were playing football in a lower division league match on one of the grounds that were scattered around the Secunderabad cantonment area in those days. Unknown to them, they were being watched from a distance by Syed Abdul Rahim, India’s famous football coach. The hawk eyed coach did not miss a single move that each player made. He was an expert at spotting early talent but he did not want to make the boys self conscious by revealing his identity. He wanted to see their natural game.
After the boys had finished playing, he summoned one of them by beckoning to the boy with his index finger. The boy who did not know Rahim, felt hurt at being called in this manner. But since it was a senior person who was summoning, he walked up to the coach and stood quietly in front of him. Rahim asked some preliminary questions such as his age, where he lived, for how long he had been playing football and so on. Only after getting his answers did Rahim reveal his identity and then asked the boy to join his training camp.
From there began the career of one of the best forwards ever to have played for the Indian football team — Tulsidas Balaram– who was born and brought up in Ammuguda in Secunderabad. The player himself revealed these details when he was speaking at a function in Hyderabad a few years ago. “Rahim saab spotted me, he trained me and he made me what I am. Without his guidance I would have been nothing. It was all due to his foresight,” Balaram said.
Later in his football career, Balaram went on to represent India in two Olympic Games and the Asian Games in 1962. Thanks to the excellence of players like Balaram, Thangaraj, P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswami, India won the gold medal at the Asian Games defeating Japan and Korea. Now these two countries are making waves and creating a sensation at the ongoing World Cup whereas India has not even qualified for the event. The reason is clear. India no longer has players of the standard of Balaram and his teammates.
Balaram was one of the best players of the golden age of Indian football of the 1950s and 1960s. His playing position was usually as a center forward but sometimes he was also positioned as a left winger.
A complete player
According to several football experts Balaram was a complete player who could dribble, shoot with either foot and was a brilliant header of the ball. He was reckoned to be the best player in Asia during his heydays.
His passing and distribution were beyond comparison. During his playing days in East Bengal in Kolkata, he finished as second highest goalscorer with 23 goals in 1959. In 1961, he was appointed captain and led the team admirably. It was one of his best seasons at the Mecca of Indian football and the Kolkata crowds fell in love with him. He top scored with 23 goals and won the league’s best player award. But at a later stage his relationship with the East Bengal club soured and he felt hurt by the attitude of the club management.
Bad luck continued to haunt him and due to health problems, his playing career ended when he was still young. However, that did not stop him from becoming a good coach. He taught his trainees what he had learnt from his guru Rahim Sahab. He coached the BNR team and Kolkata Mayors team.
Now he is 86 years old and lives in Kolkata. But he is a dejected man. He did not get the honour and respect that he deserved. He did get an Arjuna award but the promised Padma Shri was denied to him for unknown reasons. It is truly unfortunate that one of India’s greatest footballers was not given his due by the football fraternity and the government of India.