One of the last survivors of Hyderabad’s Magnificent Seven, Ahmed Hussain Lala passed away due to the pandemic at the age of 89. During his heydays, Hussain as a center-half or center-back was highly tactful in letting little get past him. So, it comes as a little surprise that he played with top clubs of the time such as Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting. However, despite all his achievements in various roles such as player, coach, or mentor, he never received any real reward or recognition.
Hussain ended up with dementia during the sunset years of his life that was further aggravated with the demise of his elder son Aijaz. His fellow mates such as Noor Mohammed, Olympian at Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne in 1956, died in Osmanpura slum, malnourished and afflicted with tuberculosis. Syed Abdus Salam, also a veteran of the two editions died after five years of illness. Mohd Zulfakaruddin, the youngest in the team who was surviving on a paltry pension, also breathed his last in 2020.
The players had to rough it out with little money to buy shoes or even afford a proper meal. Instead, they would sew their own shoes and make biryani to save up on money, till they became gainfully employed to buy shoes.
Ahmed Hussain was a gentleman who recollects former Indian captain Shabbir Ali. Hussain was the technical director and deputy coach to PK Banerjee for various tournaments in the 80s, including the 1982 Asiad. But he was known to be friendly and approachable wearing his Melbourne Olympian mantle lightly.
Ali, a Dhyan Chand awardee recollects that thanks to Hussain passing the 10-month course in football coaching at the National Institute of Sports, Bangalore, was made much easier. Hussain also mentored Brahmanand Shankwalkar, who went on to become one of India’s best custodians.