Former India footballers Arun Ghosh and Sukumar Samajpati on Tuesday remembered double Olympian and East Bengal legend Ahmed Khan, asserting that the decorated forward should have been awarded the Padma Shri award or at least the Arjuna award for his achievements.
“Why was a player like Ahmed Khan never awarded the Padma Shri or at least the Arjuna?” questioned Ghosh, a former India defender, Olympian and Asian Games gold medallist.
Ghosh was speaking at a condolence meet organised by East Bengal for Khan who was affectionately called ‘snake charmer’ for his dribbling and ball control.
Khan, who breathed his last in Bengaluru last month, played for the red and gold brigade between 1949 and 1959.
Khan donned the Indian jersey in two Olympics — 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki) and was also part of India’s gold medal winning 1951 Asian Games team in New Delhi.
“I can go on and on about the player he was and his charisma during those days. He was a footballer of a lifetime, but what we have seen rubbing shoulders with the great was how grounded a human being he was.
“Why did the AIFF (All India Football Federation) or the IFA (Indian Football Association, parent body of football in West Bengal) never push for his recognition. I don’t know,” Ghosh said.
Samajpati, who played for India between 1963-64 and was part of India’s 1964 Asian Cup runners-up team, was almost in tears while narrating tales about Khan.
“Basusree (a south Kolkata cinema joint) was his favourite place for catching up with people. He was very fond of playing cards and was a big time foodie. He loved gorging on mutton rezala. He was such a simple man and had no airs about him. Ahmed Khan is India’s pride and I feel he was not given his due by the football administrators,” Samajpati said.
Underlining the fun-loving nature of Khan, Samajpati remembered an incident where he was asked to join arch-rivals Mohun Bagan by club great Sailen Manna.
“He (Ahmed Khan) said yes. He even visited the Mohun Bagan tent but then said to the officials, if I play for Mohun Bagan, Manna has to play for East Bengal. He was always up to some mischief.”
Besides Ghosh and Samajpati, Chandan Banerjee, who played for East Bengal from 1963 to 1966 was also present.
“A Swedish team once played against East Bengal. I don’t recollect the name but they won the match despite several of Ahmed Khan’s attempts. They had a good goalkeeper. Later, one of their officials offered Khan to play in Europe. He had said ‘I want to show what barefooted football is in Europe’.”
“I urge East Bengal officials to see if Ahmed Khan can be awarded the Padma Vibhushan posthumously,” Banerjee said.