Legendary Indian forward Ahmed Khan, who had represented the country in 1948 and 1952 Olympics, passed away in Bengaluru on Sunday. He was 90.
A flair-player who excelled in the 2-3-5 formation, Khan was a mainstay of the national team for the first ten years after independence and had taken part in the first international game that the country had played after 1947, losing out narrowly against France in the 1948 Olympics.
While Rahim Saab had left out most of the stars from that team while choosing his squad for the Helsinki Olympics four years later, Ahmed found a place and led the line during the 1951 Asian Games triumph as well. He had in fact scored India's only goal in the 10-1 rout against Yugoslavia, which remains the country's biggest defeat till date.
The successful forward is counted to be among the all time best players of East Bengal, a club he had represented till 1960 before joining Mohammedan Sporting in the twillight of his career. Khan was part of the famous Pancha Pandava - the attacking quintet of the early fifties that ran riot in many national level tournaments. Apparao, Dhanraj, P Venkatesh and PB Saleh were the other four members of that lethal forward line.
It was during his heydays when the club's historic triumph of winning the I.F.A. Shield three years in a row (1949-51) as the first Indian team earned them the unique distinction of being adjudged the best soccer club by the English F.A. annual almanac of 1951-52.
He was also a teammate of Masood Fakri, who played for East Bengal Club in the years 1952-54 and went on to become the first Asian footballer to play professional football in England from 1955.
The club captain in 1954, he was conferred with the Bharat Gaurav Samman - the club's order of merit - five years ago.
His residence in Mackan Road, Bengaluru remained a regular feature on the visiting plans of East Bengal players and officials over the years. On the club's last visit to the city in February, Mehtab Hossain visited him before the match against Bengaluru FC, which the Red and Golds won 3-1.
"We had his blessings and couldn't have afforded to lose this one," the midfielder had told Goal after the tie.
Soon after news of his demise broke out, tributes started pouring in.
“It’s sad to hear that Ahmed Khan, one of the most versatile Indian players is no more. His contribution to Indian Football will never be forgotten,” Praful Patel, the AIFF president said in his condolence message.