New Delhi: Indian Sports Ministry has at last decided to honour the football Olympic team of 1956 for their remarkable achievement of reaching the semi-finals.
Out of the 18 squad members, only nine are surviving and eight are expected to make it to the ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at the India Islamic Centre, New Delhi.
Speaking to Goal.com on Saturday morning, I Srinivasan, joint secretary of the Sports Ministry of India, said, "The Central Government has taken football as a priority sport and so we have decided to honour these exemplary gentlemen. Each of the nine members would get a token of Rs 1,50,000 and a silver medal from the Sports Minister MS Gill.
"They are the examples for the youngsters who want to take up the sports," added Srinivasan.
When asked as to whether the families of the dead members would receive any monetary aid, Srinivasan answered with a plain ‘no’.
Meanwhile, SS Narayan was disappointed with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for failing to recognise their achievement.
"Now also, after more than 50 years, it’s the Sports Ministry who has taken the initiative and not the AIFF. This is very sad as some of the members died penniless," said Narayan, who is known as ‘Babu’ amongst Mumbai football aficionados.
It was during the 2007 visit of FIFA president Sepp Blatter that they Olympians were once called only to receive a medal. "The AIFF called and told us to come but no arrangements were made for the same. They asked me to speak to the district local football body. I spoke to Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) who asked me to speak to Western India Football Association (WIFA). Nothing came off it and I decided not to go to Kolkata."
"Finally Dasmunshi called up and asked me the reason for my protest against the event. After intimating him, he made some arrangements. The AIFF could have honoured us back then."
Remembering some of the glorious moments from 1956 event, Babu said, "The best was the 4-2 thrashing of Australia with Neville D’Souza scoring a hat-trick. It was a great match. We lost to Yugoslavia 4-1 after leading for more than an hour or so in the semi-finals."
"After the match the then FIFA president Stanley Ross came to our dressing room and congratulated us for the display and was taken aback that India could play such quality football," he said.
The nine surviving members are: Badru Banerjee (captain), PK Banerjee, SS Narayan, K Paul, S Nandy, Ahmed Hussain, Zulfikaar, Balaram and MS Salam.
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