“I sacrificed my entire life for football.” – Football coach Syed Nayemuddin

Syed Nayemuddin
Syed Nayemuddin (PC: Debasis Sen)

Syed Nayemuddin, who led the Indian football team to an Asian Games bronze in 1970 is in deep financial crisis. Regarded as one of the most successful club coaches in the country, Nayemuddin is struggling to make both ends meet. Nayeem, as he is affectionately known in the football fraternity, is in Kolkata on a short trip. The 80-year-old has made it a habit in the last few years to buy lottery tickets twice a week, hoping to hit jackpot. His two sons, Syed Fazaluddin and Syed Saifuddin, who played tennis, are settled in the USA. They send money occasionally, but it does not suffice for Dad Nayeem.

“I wanted to have my own academy where I can provide the trainees with the best facilities. But my dream has not materialised because of the lack of financial support. For that reason, I still buy lottery tickets with the hope of fetching a jackpot one day. I am trying to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Didi but she is busy with her election campaign,” said Nayeemuddin in a chat with Revsportz at the Calcutta South Club.

“I have approached the federation (AIFF) but they have not responded,” added Nayemuddin.

The All-India Football Federation, unlike the BCCI, has done nothing to look after the welfare of former international players. Several of them are struggling to make both ends meet. They are in financial distress.

Despite age catching up, Nayeem da, as he is affectionately called in Kolkata, still looks fit. He still maintains a smart dress code and sports Ray-Ban sunglasses.

“I got everything from this city. I am grateful for all the recognition I received playing for the three big clubs, coaching the Bengal team. I got an opportunity to play for East Bengal because of Jyotish Guha. I spent my best time both as a footballer and as a coach in Kolkata,” said Nayeem.

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Igor Stimac addressing a press-conference
Igor Stimac addressing a press-conference (Source: X.com)

Asked if he has any regret in life, the Dronacharya coach said: “After the results I produced, I deserved more. I sacrificed my entire life for football. I always fought for the players well-being.”

Nayeemuddin was often criticised for being a strict disciplinarian. At times, he also faced a revolt from the footballers. But the man himself has no qualms.

According to the veteran coach, “Whatever it is, the coach is always right. They (footballers at that time) did not know so many things about maintaining a healthy diet, drinking mineral water, and taking food supplements etc.”

Nayeemuddin was unceremoniously removed by the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) from the post of India coach on March 2, 2006 after the national team’s 0-3 home defeat to Yemen in the Asian Cup qualifiers. The veteran coach does follow the matches involving the Blue Tigers.

Speaking about coach Igor Stimac and his side ahead of the all-important FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers against Kuwait and Qatar, Nayemuddin said: “Stimac is getting everything, so we must expect better results. Whatever he required has been provided. I respect everyone. The important thing is we want results. Hopefully we will do well in the upcoming matches. I respect all the coaches.”

Recently a film (Maidaan) on legend Syed Abdul Rahim and the victorious 1962 Asian Games winning team was released.

“I haven’t watched it yet. Rahim Saheb was a great coach. You know a coach is as good as the players. During his time, he had world class players like Chuni Goswami, Pradip Banerjee, Jarnail Singh, Arun Ghosh and others,” signed off Nayeemuddin.

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