Legendary footballer forced to fight Covid on his own

Syed Shahid Hakim, who was a part of India’s 1960 Olympic squad, fails to get a bed in govt hospital, finds it difficult to pay Rs 12,000 daily in a private clinic.

Nothing could be worse than an Olympian, national coach, administrator, FIFA referee, Dhyan Chand Award winner and a living legend — who has been tested Covid-positive — getting no help from the government and has to spend Rs 12,000 per day for the treatment. Syed Shahid Hakim who was a part of India’s 1960 Olympics football squad and has served the Indian Air Force has been suffering from coronavirus since 13 July 2020.

According to reports, the 81-year-old initially tried to get himself admitted in a government hospital but was unhappy with the facilities and couldn’t find a bed at the military hospital. He was tested positive a couple of days ago after suffering from breathing problems and was taken to a government facility where things were not up to the mark.

In the military hospital, no bed was available. His nephew lodged him in a private hotel Amruta Castle in Hyderabad where he is spending around Rs 12,000 per day for quarantine facilities, which is beyond his capacity. “The cricket board takes care of its old cricketers, why can’t the government reach out to us? At least some pension to the families and medical expenses should be provided to us,” Hakim said.

The only surviving football Olympian in the country after the demise of P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswami said that the government was not doing enough for him. He had written to the Sports Minister, saying that all football Olympians were dying one after another and the government was not taking care of them properly. Son of legendary footballer Syed Abdul Rahim, he also didn’t receive any help from filmmaker Boney Kapoor and actor Ajay Devgn who are apparently making a film on his life.

Former squadron leader Hakim joined the IAF as a commissioned officer in 1962 and took voluntary retirement in 1983 to promote sports. He later joined National Institute of Sports in 1986, became Dean NIS and retired as the regional director of Sports Authority of India (SAI). The ailing veteran is the only sportsperson in India who is an Olympian ex-FIFA referee with the national record of officiating 33 international matches, ex-Asian Football Confederation referees’ instructor, ex national coach, ex-secretary of Air Force Sports Control Board, expert commentator for World Cup and Euro Cup.

Delhi’s footballer Gaus Mohammad wonders why a person with such an outstanding career hasn’t received help from anywhere. In the meantime, Mohammad has also written a letter to Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhaduria seeking his help for the veteran.

Hakim was the second footballer to receive the Dhyan Chand Award after Shabbier Ali in 2017. This is the highest award in Indian sports given for lifetime achievement in sports and games. After his contribution to the sport as a referee from 1970 and playing career of 25 years, he turned to coaching and had a 10-year stint as the chief project director at Sports Authority of India. A part of the Indian football team in the 1960 Rome Olympics, he has also been an accomplished FIFA referee besides being the Indian National Team’s Assistant Coach.

All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das in his message said, “Hakim saab has been an inspiration to many footballers over the years. He has a versatile personality. A Sports enthusiast and a great achiever like him deserves to get help from the Sports Ministry and his Air Force department in which he served for many years.”

 No doubt, he is a legendary footballer of the country and has served sports sincerely and honestly in the Indian Air Force, NIS and SAI. He deserves help and the IAF should be proud of his achievements. But unfortunately, he could not get any help so far.