Forty six years ago, the Indian Youth Team created history by becoming Joint Champions with Iran in the XVI Asian Youth Football Tournament held at Bangkok, Thailand from April 15-30, 1974.
This is the last Trophy that came to India at the Asian level.
The Indian Youth team participated on several occasions in the Asian Youth Championship but the result were not good enough. So much so that the Govt. of India had decided not to grant permission for such outings.
However, the AIFF managed to persuade the Govt. to grant permission one more time arguing that the team would give a good of itself this time around. Permission granted and the team was announced.
Shabbir Ali was named Captain and Prasun Banerjee was his deputy. But nobody expected much from this outfit.
In the first match on 17-04-1974 manage to scrape past Laos by a 1-0 margin. The goal being scored by Shabbir Ali. The match was evenly contested, though there was plenty of scope for improvement.
In the 2nd match on 19-04-1974, India edge past Burma 1-0, with Shabbir Ali once again delivering the goods. It was much improved display against a formidable opposition, with two wins India thus qualified for the quarter finals.
In the last pool match against Hong Kong on 21-04-1974, India settled for a 2-2 tie to emerge as the group winners. Mohammed Yakoob did the star turn by netting a brace. Hong Kong finished second.
At the Quarter Final match on 24-4-1974, India held by Singapore to a 1-1 draw, Shabbir Ali once again getting on to the score sheet. In the tie breaker that followed, Goal keeper Prasanta Mitra emerged as the Hero as India won by 4-1 margin.
In the semifinal we come up against the hosts Thailand, who had beaten Japan in the group stage and had scored 11 goals with out conceding enroute to the penultimate round.
The stadium was jam packed and only a few Indian were there to cheer us. But we rose to the occasion and won 2-1 with Mohd. Yakoob and Shabbir Ali hitting the targets. Almost every body played well right from Gk Prasanta to defenders, midfield/forwards even the substitutes.
Iran were firm favourite for the final on 30-04-1974 having beaten South Korea 3-0 in the semifinal. Everybody expected the Persians to walk alll over us.
But our Coaches S A Salam and Arun Ghosh, and Manager Dilip Ghosh were not covered down. When we were headed to the stadium, our bus was behind the Iran vehicle with a police car separating the two teams, while also being in front and behind the peloton.
Our coaches tried to pep us up by saying that the Iranians had taken us for granted by celebrating as if they already have won the trophy. We have to teach them a lesson. We did. We played out of our skin as attacking and defending as a one unit, Iran took the lead but Latifuddin Najam equalised. It was 1-1 at the full time.
India took the lead in the first minute of the extra time through Shabbir Ali. But in the dying minutes of the game Iran got a free kick and equalised through header. 2-2 the match was over. It was decided to share the Trophy.
Story and Pictures Courtesy - Shabbir Ali