Srinagar, May 27: The legendary footballer of J&K and in true sense a unsung hero of J&K football Noor Mohammad Bakshi passed away on Wednesday.
Legend who dominated football in 60’s and 70’s was popularly known as -Mercedes- owing to his fast speed on the pitch. J&K Football Association and many other former and current footballers have condoled his demise.
Below is the Interview from Daily Greater Kashmir published in 2014 in which Noor Mohammad Bakshi is speaking about his football career and the golden period of J&K football.https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/sports/football-lacks-support-form-govt-corporate-sector/
UNSUNG HEROES OF JK FOOTBALL
He was nick named as Mercedes for his speed. His skills would mesmerize football fans throughout the Valley. Noor Muhammad Bakshi alias Mercedes in an interview with GK sports correspondent Abid Khan talks about his landmarks, achievements and memorable moments of career.
Q: When and how you started playing football?
My romance with football began in early childhood. Like other children’s of the vicinity I used to play in Qawaid Maidan which was known as Hazuri Bagh and now Iqbal Park. Army’s Pioneer Team used to practice football in the Maidan. After daily practice they used to play with us.
In 1958, I joined Silk Factory team (Resham Khana) and played for them for four years as right out. There were no coaches that time and whatever we learnt was through others players.
During my time at Silk Factory then Police commandant Gulzar Sheikh and Army’s Militia team lieutenant Mr Aziz offered me to join their respective teams. My father suggested me to join Militia team. In 1962, I joined Militia team and I had privilege to play with players like Khaliq, Shah Muhammad, Shafi, Gul Khan and Abdul Ahad. I was young that time and no player in entire state was matching my speed on the field.
I left Militia team same year. Once I left them all well known teams of State were after me. But I refused to join any team.
During the same period the former J&K Football Association President Nazir Ahmad Khan approached me and offered me to join Transport-XI. Mr Jamwal was head of the State Transport that time.
Transport was considered top team of the State and I played for them in almost all the top level State and national events which included Durand Cup, Rovers Cup. People liked my game and were following me madly but I never knew why they loved my game that much. I played till 1974.
Q: What were the major achievements of your career?
I don’t remember how many awards I won during my career. I played for J&K team in Santosh Trophy for 15 continuous years. Apart from that I also played in Rover’s Cup, Durand Cup and other national events.
I remember during national events outside several teams offered me to join them. Premier clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan offered me to play for them. But I refused and preferred to stay in the Valley. The well known referee of India Iqram-ul-Haq told me that I can earn a lot of money by joining national clubs but I preferred to stay with Transport team.
Q: Memorable moments of your career?
Once I was on rest due to leg injury when State team was about to leave for Santosh Trophy campaign. All players and officials were after me to join the team but I didn’t listen to them. When all their efforts failed they lured me with airplane ticket.
During that time it was dream to travel by air and seeing that opportunity I readily accepted the offer. When I reached Bangalore team manager Nazir Khan told me that on my airfare Rs 500 were spent and if you will help us to win the match I will have to pay nothing. I played with my heart out and helped the team to win Rs 500.
In another match against BG Roorkee in Santosh Trophy I scored both goals directly with my swinging cross. Team manager Jagdish awarded me with Rs 200 of which team mates snatched Rs 100 for party.
For my performance in the event I was selected for Bangkok trip of Indian team. Our manager asked me to join the team in Mumbai, but I preferred to come to Valley first. Here everybody including Nazir Khan whom I reckon highly asked me to join the team but I refused. I think I was selected for my long curling cross and swinging corner kicks which used to go straight into goal.
Q: Do you rue your decision of refusing to play for national level clubs?
No not at all. For me love of game mattered most than money. I played for people of Valley and if I would have left to play for national clubs, hardly anyone here would have seen me playing.
Q: Why you refused to go to Bangkok?
I wanted to go to Bangkok as it was once in lifetime opportunity. I refused to go only because I feared I will face a lot of problems because of being illiterate. It was the only reason I refused.
Q: Why were you called Mercedes?
I was very fast on the field and no player in Valley or Country used to match my speed. Whenever ball was under my feet hardly anyone was ever able to snatch it. As Mercedes was popular and fast car of that time I was nick named the same.
It was people/fans who gave me this name and I feel proud of it. It is honour for me and I like when people call me with this name.
During my playing time due to my speed I had made good combination with then popular player Farooq Ahmad. He trusted me a lot and we both scored lot of gaols on each other’s cross.
Q: What are the reasons J&K football team isn’t able to perform better at national arena?
There are several reasons. In past we used to be a well knit unit and players would help each other to improve the game. But currently there is more of individualism and today’s game is totally different compared to when we were playing.
In other parts of the World, administrators have been developing grass roots level football from last three decades while in our state the initiative has started recently.
The most important thing that is affecting our football is lack of support from the government and corporate sector. Football is poor man’s game. But still money is being pumped in cricket instead of football.
The government is hell bent to destroy the basic infrastructure of the game. The grounds are being turned into parks and gardens. During our time there used to be playing fields in Badam Bagh, Sonwar, Eidgah, Hazuri Bagh, Medical Institute Soura and others which have been turned into parks. How can you think of improving standard when you have snatched basic existence of the game?
Q: What is the difference between past and current level of football?
The main difference is lack of encouragement of talent. My son Ashiq Bakshi played for SRTC team for many years and even captained it for three years. But he got nothing in return. SRTC team has been abandoned and players left to strive for themselves. If things like this continue how we will produce good players.
In our time talent was encouraged and whoever was a good player was readily being offered government employment. Even SRTC had two teams that time. But today scenario has changed and government is doing nothing to encourage talent.
Q: So in your opinion talent was encouraged during your time?
Yes it was the case. During my time departments were after me, offering me lucrative jobs and I played for three different teams. That shows the encouragement level. But today there is nothing from government or corporate sector.
Even rulers of our time were big supporters of football and players. I remember once former chief minister Mir Sadiq came to me at Bakshi Stadium and said ‘well-done you played well.’ After that he touched my legs and said, “Your legs are strong and make others players legs strong as well.”
It was his love for the game, respect for players and it would encourage us.
Q: How can football progress in J&K?
Football can progress in the State only after getting support from government and corporate sector. We need to encourage players by giving them job security. The other need is to upgrade infrastructure instead of ruining it.