Indian Soccer's forgotten hero

NDTV met one of India's forgotten heroes, Naik Bir Bahadur, the star centre-forward of the Indian football team at the Asian Games in 1966.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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As football fans savour every move made in Germany, NDTV travelled to a dingy, crowded locality of Secunderabad to meet one of India's forgotten heroes, a man not as famous as Wayne Rooney, but just as deserving of the number nine jersey that he wore for several years. Naik Bir Bahadur was the star centre-forward of the Indian football team at the Asian Games in 1966, where India finished fourth. Bahadur was also captain of the Services team whose '9' number jersey he wore for 22 years till he retired in 1985. "I was very happy and life was great while I was playing the game but at the end of it, I have not got anything for my achievements," said Bir Bahadur. Bahadur and his wife, Devika live in a dingy house in a crowded locality of Secunderabad. He appeared reluctant to travel back in time to those days, when he had the world at his feet. The time when the team would look to Bahadur to score the winning goal and create opportunities for others. "Nobody needs to look at us and feel sympathetic. At least they should look at him and respect him for his game. That is all we expect," said Devika. Forgotten hero For the last six years, Bahadur's routine has been fixed. Every afternoon, he is on the road with his mobile chaat shop, struggling to make Rs 150 rupees a day. The monthly pension of Rs 3000 that he gets from the Army is not enough for his family of four. "It is very painful when I look back. More so because I was not recognised for anything that I have done. If anyone comes forward, I will be grateful to God," said Bahadur. Bahadur says he follows the game whenever he gets time. But his passion and fire for the game has been replaced by a quiet acceptance of reality.