Mohammed Habib, the playmaker par excellence of the 1970s who scored against Pele’s New York Cosmos in Mohun Bagan colours and made the football icon take note of his game, died on Tuesday.
The former India player was 74.
Habib, who was suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s syndrome for the past couple of years, breathed his last in Hyderabad, his birthplace.
Habib was survived by his wife and three daughters.
Mohammed Habib's stellar career
A bronze medallist in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok under the captaincy of fellow Hyderabadi Syed Nayeemuddin and manager PK Banerjee, Habib has represented the big three of Kolkata Maidan — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting in his heydays, dominating the Mecca of Indian football for a prolonged period in the late 1960s through to the 70s.
Following a successful career that saw him gain legendary status and earn the tag of the country’s first “true professional” footballer for his refusal to accept numerous job offers that came his way owing to his on-field heroics, Habib took to coaching at the Tata Football Academy (TFA).
Coaching stint with Indian football
Later, he also acted as chief coach of the Indian Football Association academy in Haldia.
At a time when the clubs would pay meagre sum to their best players, he was unruffled and remained a professional in true sense throughout his career, for he considered playing football as his real and only profession.
When Habib worked his magic for Mohun Bagan
One of the highlights of Habib’s career was when he played for Mohun Bagan against the visiting Cosmos Club which also featured the legendary Pele in 1977 in a friendly on a rain-soaked Eden Gardens.
Up against a visiting team that had a star-studded line up with big names like Pele, Carlos Alberto, Georgio Chinaglia and others in its ranks, Mohun Bagan held their own in a creditable 2-2 draw with midfield mainstay Habib being one of the scorers.
In one of his biggest acknowledgments, Habib was singed out by Pele after the match with the one of the world’s greatest player praising his game.