Syed Rahim Nabi suffered a fractured jaw and needed stitches after being struck by a missile from the stands in the infamous Kolkata derby on December 9, 2012. This was after Odafa Okolie was shown a red card for allegedly hurling expletives to the referee just before half-time. Mohun Bagan didn’t turn up for the second half proceedings fearing that the security wasn’t foolproof eventhough advised otherwise by the match commissioner.
In the aftermath, Mohun Bagan were banned and later as a reprieve, was allowed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to participate in the league but with zero points for their efforts.
However the Mariners put in some top performances in order to save themselves from going down and Nabi played an important role in their revival. On his part, the Indian international stated that that the task wouldn’t have been possible without the presence of coach Karim Bencherifa.
“In life everyone has to start from zero. But in football, to start midway from the zero point was one of the biggest challenges in our lives. We had to save a big team like Mohun Bagan from relegation. And it’s not just about the players; you need the coach and officials too. It’s the coach who can ultimately motivate the players. There were times when the players would give up pondering what to do. But I liked the fact that the coach (Karim Bencherifa) kept us serious all throughout. I will give credit to the coach. The officials too kept the team together. Of course, you cannot forget the supporters who come into the stadium to support us in every match. We got saved eventually as everyone helped and yes, the players played their part too,” he told Goal on the sidelines of the MUPC North and east finale in Jamshedpur.
With Mohammedan Sporting having made a comeback into the top division, Nabi was pleased to see his former side make the cut for I-League.
“It’s always good to hear that another team from Bengal shall play in the I-League. I have played in the second division and can say that it is tougher than the I-League. You have to play loads of matches in less time. Good job by Mohammedan Sporting in overcoming this challenge. But now they must aim to stay in the I-League and getting relegated once again will be bad. It’s a team from Kolkata so obviously I will like that they have progressed. We already have East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Prayag United from Kolkata in the I-League and this give an opportunity for the local boys who are playing elsewhere to come and ply their trade in these clubs,” he said.
Nabi wants to win the SAFF Championship
Nabi also reflected on the Challenge Cup qualifiers fiasco where India failed to qualify for the tournament proper and thus their hopes of making it into the Asian Cup 2015 went crashing. Needing a draw in the final group tie against Myanmar, India didn’t take their chances and let in a goal to lose 1-0. Interestingly, Nabi didn’t start the game and the fans and critics questioned the decision of coach Wim Koevermans in the aftermath.
“We had an opportunity to make it as we had to draw the last game. The players gave their best but it didn’t help in the end. We didn’t qualify. In football, these things happen. But now we must forget the disappointment and focus on the future.
“Now we just have to think of SAFF Championship. Whatever tournament we have next, we have to accept and move on. We should become SAFF Champions once again,” he mentioned.