Mohammed Habib (1949 -2023): India’s football great

Mohammed Habib, the playmaker par excellence of the 1970s who made the football icon take note of his game, died on Tuesday.

Habib who scored against Pele’s New York Cosmos in Mohun Bagan colours, was 74.
“It will remain one of my greatest moments and which was appreciated by Pele himself at the end of the match, hugging me and wishing me best of luck wishes,” Habib had once told Sportstar in one of his interviews.

He breathed his last in Hyderabad, his birthplace.

Former India men’s football team captain represented the national team 35 times, scoring 11 goals.

Habib was suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s syndrome for the past couple of years.

Habib is also considered by many Indians as one of the best footballers the country has ever produced. He was popularly known as Bade Mia in the Indian football world.

In 1968, Habib played for the Calcutta Football League club Mohun Bagan under “diamond coach” Amal Dutta, and won the 1969 IFA Shield with a 3–1 victory against East Bengal in the final.

Although hailing from the state of Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana), he represented Bengal in the Santosh Trophy. Led by Habib and Santo Mitra, the team won the title in 1969. Habib finished as top scorer with eleven goals, including two hat-tricks against Madras and Services.

Habib represented the India national team in international tournaments. He won a bronze medal at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok on a team led by Syed Nayeemuddin and managed by P. K. Banerjee.

After playing football, Habib became coach of the Tata Football Academy. He also acted as chief coach of the Indian Football Association academy in Haldia.

Habib guided Mohammedan Sporting in domestic competitions from 1999–2000, 2000–2003 and 2005. He also managed Bengal Mumbai FC in the Mumbai Football League from 2007 to 2008.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters.

For his exploits in Indian football, Habib was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1980.

Expressing his condolences, All India Football Federation president Kalyan Chaubey said, “The ‘Bade Miya’ of Kolkata football was my coach and mentor in [Tata Football Academy] and Mohun Bagan. His contribution to India’s bronze medal-winning team in the 1970 Asian Games will be remembered forever. May his soul rest in peace.”