When the newly-born nation Pakistan played their first official international tie – a friendly match against Iran – the team was led by the redoubtable Osman Jan, the celebrated custodian, who had actually achieved footballing stardom much before in pre-independence India, owing to his fabulous exploits in the Santosh Trophy.
Two major highlights of Osman Jan’s exploits revolve around the famous Santosh trophy. There is hardly a top player in the country who hasn’t gone through the grind of the Santosh Trophy at some stage of his career in the last eight decades. And Osman Jan was one of the most illustrious to have played in it.
Few are aware that Osman, who once guarded the citadel of Kolkata’s great Mohammedan Sporting in the 1930s, was perhaps the first footballer to win the Santosh Trophy for two different states. While his triumph as part of the mighty Bengal team in the inaugural edition in 1941 didn’t come as a surprise to any, it made people to sit up and take notice the second time when Osman captained hosts Delhi to win the 1944 Santosh Trophy beating all-conquering Bengal in the final.
If the old timers are to be believed, it was a fascinating battle in 1944 that saw underdogs Delhi win the prestigious National Football Championship for the only time in history. Osman, by then, had returned to his hometown Delhi after successful stints with Mohammedan Sporting and Aryans in Kolkata.
Having joined the Crescent Football Club in Old Delhi, he was said to be instrumental in raising the Delhi state team that went on to beat a star-studded Bengal 2-0 in the final. He didn’t allow any interference in the selection of the team and picked the best possible side, which included two British citizens from the Royal Indian Air Force, then stationed in Delhi. The move proved correct as one of them scored one of the two goals for Delhi in the final (Bhabani Banerjee was the other marksman).
The Delhi squad in 1944 was a true advertisement of unity in diversity – the hallmark of the Santosh Trophy right from the beginning. In the later years, two team members returned to England; some went to Pakistan and some left Delhi to settle elsewhere.
Osman went over to Pakistan and in October 1950, when the Pakistan National Team made their first-ever tour of Iran and Iraq, he was made the captain. After his death, a tournament was started in his memory in Karachi. (ANI)