One of the finest footballers of the country and a widely respected coach Abdul Latif passed away at the age of 73 in Guwahati on March 23 night. Latif was a member of India’s medal winning football team of Bangkok Asian Games in 1970.
Latif who was born on June 20 of 1947 in Mysore, Karnataka made Guwahati his home after since 1970s and was associated with football coaching ever since.
His funereal was performed on March 24 in the presence of his family members, relatives, members of sports fraternity, representatives of district administration and a host of well wishers.
The 72-year old footballer was suffering from old age related ailments for some time.
“He was popular among the people not only as a player or coach but also as a human being. He was active till very recently before he fell ill and confined to his home,” said Nasir Gul Khan, a relative of Latif.
Latif who made his international debut for India against Burma in the Asia Cup Qualifier in 1968 went on to represent India in 4 matches, and scored one goal against Singapore in the 1969 Merdeka Cup — a match which India won 3-0.
He represented India in three tournaments – the Asia Cup Qualifier in 1968 in Rangoon (currently Yangon), and the 1969 Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur, and the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok.
Latif started his football career from Mysore and played national junior football in 1961. Next year, in 1962 he represented Karnataka in the senior national football for Santosh trophy. A specialised mid-fielder, Latif represented three different states in the Santosh Trophy.
From 1964 to 1970 he represented West Bengal for five times. In 1974, he played for Andhra Pradesh. The skill and resulting success gave him international reputation.
In 1965, he represented Indian junior team in Japan and then continuously played for three years in the Indian team.
His International success came when the Indian team, in which he was a member, won the bronze medal in the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games.
Apart from that he also represented some of the leading clubs like Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.
After his retirement, Latif completed his NIS course and became a qualified football coach in 1976. Then he joined Mohammedan Sporting as a coach and moved to Assam as a coach under state sports council after that.
“Assam football made tremendous progress under his (Latif) guidance. His role as a coach was commendable as he toured the state extensively to unearth the talents from nook and corner of the state. His biggest success in the history of Assam football came when he took the Assam football team to four finals in the national school and sub junior football and Assam was the champion for three consecutive times from 1978 to 1980. In 1981, Assam was the runner-up,” said senior sports commentator and writer Subudh Malla Baruah.
Latif was also awarded the central government sports pension for his stellar role in the development of football.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) condoled the death of Latif. AIFF President Praful Patel in his message said: “It is sad to hear that Abdul Latif is no more. His contribution to Indian Football will never be forgotten. I share the grief”.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressed his grief and paid condolences to the family. Apart from that Assam Cricket Association, Assam Football Association and a host of organizations also paid tribute to the deceased soul.