The football game is also getting popular among Hyderabadis, nowadays. Recently, Hyderabad won their maiden ISL title on by defeating Kerala Blasters. And it’s boosted the confidence among promoters, players, organizers and franchisee to infuse more efforts to make it bigger than expectations.

“The glory days are back, Hyderabad,” tweeted Hyderabad FC on Sunday night after they defeated Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) final in Goa.

Hyderabad football, deprived of silverware and glory for years on end were finally off the mark. Manolo Marquez had led the side in remarkable style, despite the team being one of the worst affected in terms of COVID-19 in the season.

Hyderabad, one of Indian football’s historic powerhouses, had been off the map for a few years and more before the franchise made their entry in the ISL. After a torrid first year, Hyderabad won their games, and won a lot of hearts in the second year, before bagging the ISL title in style in Goa.

“Hyderabad FC becoming champions in the ISL is very good for the football culture in the city,” said Shabbir Ali, one of the best forwards to have worn the Indian jersey and a Dhyan Chand awardee in 2011, the first footballer to win the award.

Hyderabad FC with coach Marquez and captain Joao Victor leading the side, have upped the ante this season after missing out on the play-offs last year, and have adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.

“It’s good that the trophy is going to a new state. After the entry of Hyderabad FC, and them doing well, along with the presence of Sreenidhi FC in the state, it has resulted in people talking about football,” Ali told #KhabarLive over a telephonic conversation.

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The city of the Nizams is well known for its rich contribution to Indian sport, whether it be football, cricket, badminton or even tennis.

Hyderabad’s very own Syed Abdul Rahim, one of Indian football’s most loved coaches, was key to the country earning the tag of ‘Brazil of Asia’ in the years after Independence. Rahim was India’s coach when the country won her first Gold medal in the Asian Games in 1951, and the team did not look back for the next 11 years, winning the top prize again in Jakarta in 1962.

And while that was at the international level, Hyderabad Police, in the 1950s and then the Andhra Pradesh state team in the decade after, ruled Indian football domestically, setting up the platform for the country’s best era in the sport.

Since then, after Rahim’s passing, the footballing spirit in the city has been on the down, up until the recent years with Hyderabad FC, and Sreenidhi Deccan FC, who have been trying to do their bit for the state from Vizag.

Arguably one of the best forwards in his time, Shabbir Ali, who still holds the record for the fastest hat-trick in the India colours, is understandably delighted that the top flight title has made its way to his city.

Nonetheless, he throws caution to the wind, and hopes that this will spark off more investment in terms of growing the game in the city. The manager of the Telangana side who has been forcing everyone to take note of their progress, explains that unless there is more dedicated investment, it would be rather difficult for Hyderabad football to return to its glory days.

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The former India captain was among the many players who had to move base to establish themselves during their playing career, is hopeful that the ISL title in 2022 can spark off something good for his city.

“It is time the government and corporates come forward and make teams, provide jobs to the youngsters. All other states have quite a few clubs and teams unlike in Hyderabad.”

“A few teams in the state will not work. For example, see places like Mumbai and Kolkata – they were in good health. But now the (state) league finishes in few months so players are contacted only for small periods. Football can only improve if there are more teams. And there need to be longer leagues in all the states as well.”

“We need competition and teams to improve. There is a league with promotion and relegation. But one has to play all through the year, only then will the standard improve,” he explained. “And if there is investment from corporates, it will only help the club make progress.”

“All the government organisations, like banks, need to appoint more players. Where will the new players go?”
The decorated coach and a winner of the Pride of Telangana Award, further breaks it down, saying that unless players play more and train more it will be difficult to reach the levels of top flight football.

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“If there are more teams and people take interest in making more teams then only football will go forward. Not everyone can make it to the top level. When we played, it was semi-professional, you worked and played too… there were small clubs also for those who didn’t make the top level, but where are the small clubs now?”

“Hyderabad FC could not start the age-group football due to the pandemic, and Sreenidhi had started with age group which is good for the sport in the city. It will take time.”

“To me the standard of Indian players has improved due to the ISL and I-league, however the problem is they’re not practising enough,” he lamented.

Practice makes a man perfect, they say, and clearly the need of the hour is more games and more investment. One of the crown jewels in Indian football and Hyderabad, Ali hopes that both investment and game time will see an uptick in the years and months from now on in.

A roaring return in terms of profile for the sport in the city can only be good news for Indian football, and Ali, like most football lovers, would be delighted to see Hyderabad’s glory days return.

Hyderabad FC with coach Marquez and captain Joao Victor have done their bit for now, will the rest take the cue? ‘Gimme hope Jo’anna, Hope Jo’anna’! #KhabarLive #hydnews