Ahmed Hussain, one of India’s greatest central defenders, passed away in Bengaluru on Friday after a brief illness. He was 86. Originally from Hyderabad, Hussain, who later played for Mohammedan Sporting and Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, was a member of the Indian team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where India finished fourth.
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Having started as a centre-half in the 2-3-5 system, Hussain shifted to the central defender position at the beginning of the three-back era, where he soon became one of the country’s best. A graduate of Nizam College, which also produced star sportsmen like Gulam Ahmed and ML Jaisimha, Hussain skippered Osmania University to their maiden all-India Inter-University championship in 1954 and then joined Hyderabad Sporting Club.
In the 1950s, it was considered natural for all top players in the state to join mighty Hyderabad City Police, but Hussain preferred to switch over to Kolkata in 1956 and play three seasons for Mohammedan Sporting. In 1959, he donned the colours of Mohun Bagan, but didn’t stay in the city once the season was over.
Hussain’s international career was short, but dazzling. His first stint with the national team was the 1956 Olympics, where India came up with their best-ever result. He was selected again for the 1958 Asian Games, where India reached the semi-finals. Next year, Hussain was in the flight for the Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur. India finished unbeaten runners-up behind hosts and champions Malaya (now Malaysia).
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“In short, Hussain sahib was an outstanding defender and a coach in the later years,” says Olympian SS Hakim. “Those were the days when India never got knocked out in the first rounds. Players like Hussain and all played at the highest level and proved themselves. In the 1982 Asian Games, he was the technical director of the team from the government side and did a fine job,” added Hakim.
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