During his playing days, Abdul Majid, the first Kashmiri to captain India was referred to as ‘sher-dil.’ A member of India’s Asian Cup side in 1984, speaks at length about the current level of Indian Football, his expectations in the Asian Cup, football in the valley and much more. EXCERPTS:
You were the first player from Jammu and Kashmir to captain India. How important was it for the youth to have an icon like you?
I was able to provide an avenue which allowed local boys to dream and pursue their dreams. There has always been a craze for football in the valley, and I feel I acted as a beacon of hope for the likes of Ishfaq Ahmed and Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
How was your experience of playing in Asian Cup in 1984.
I was rejected from the Indian camp twice before I was finally called up. The coach told me that I just wasn’t good enough, and that I was weak with my left foot. So I started practising. I used to juggle with stones, trying to balance them on my weak foot. I worked day and night to reduce my weakness, and eventually earned a selection.
How do you describe the current level of football in India?
Indian football has changed drastically. We are now at a point where we can compete with some of the best teams in Asia. That itself is a clear indication of how well the game has developed.
How big will it be if the team makes it to the second round in the Asian Cup?
We haven’t made it out of the group stages ever and it would be nothing less than special for me. This team has the potential to do big in the AFC Asian Cup. But we just need to see how well they play under pressure.
Realistically, how do you rate India’s chances?
We will be under pressure in every game. The three teams in the group stage are all about quality. Thailand is a powerhouse in South Asian football, UAE are the hosts and Bahrain are a strong contender in the middle-east. Each team will present their own challenges and this is nothing less than a Group of Death for us.
How do you see Indian football progressing in the near future?
A good performance in the AFC Asian Cup can set up steps for the FIFA World Cup. It can also give a massive further boost to the sport of India.
What’s your message to the Indian Team?
All the best! Play with your hundred percent. Play without fear and make our nation proud.
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