Amidst the 45,000 plus Indian fans, who had gathered to bid farewell to Baichung Bhutia in the match against Bayern Munich from Germany, Syed Rahim Nabi brought the first cheer on the faces on Indian fans, when he charged in to make a solid tackle on Arjen Robben and stole the ball from him. After the match when Baichung rightfully stole the limelight, Nabi left the field as the best Indian player with solid defending and occasional runs down the flank. Even in the recently concluded SAFF cup,Ai??Sunil Chettri had stolen the limelight from him. However, the year 2011 gave us enough instances to show that Nabi is the next star of Indian Football. TheHardTackle looks at the career of the silent hero of the Indian Football team.

Mr. Versatile Of Indian Team – The Beginning

A Tata Football Academy product, Nabi started his career as a striker. He then moved to midfield and the more recently as a left fullback. Nabi has represented India at various age group levels and made his senior debut back in 2004. He is perhaps one of the most versatile players the country has ever seen. The Mohun Bagan star has been fielded at different positions by different coaches and he has responded admirably – a rare quality among Indian players. In football, coaches come with different ideologies and strategies. Nonetheless, all the coaches of Team India have included one player unanimously – Syed Rahim Nabi. The Hoogly-born footballer has been an integral part of almost all the national team squad for quite sometime. With as many as 42 caps, Nabi won the Nehru Cup in 2007 and 2009 and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008.

Nabi: SAFF Cup victory

2011 – When Nabi Shot to Fame

After having struggled to get a place under Bob Houghton, in the run-up to Asia Cup 2011, Nabi made it to the starting eleven after injuries to Mahesh Gawli and Sameer Naik. Nabi played all three matches in the Asia Cup on the left wing and came-up with inspired performances. HeAi??then played in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, where several senior players were rested, and helped India to qualify by topping the group. Nabi proved how versatile he’s when he came to team’s rescue by moving to the left full-back position from left midfield, after Debabrata Roy was sent-off in Indiaai??i??s 3-0 defeat to UAE in July last year in the World Cup Qualifiers. In the reverse leg, Nabi started as a left full-back and played an inspired role in Indiaai??i??s 2-2 comeback. For the first time, fans saw Nabiai??i??s importance as left-back, when he combined well with Clifford to torment UAE with his overlapping runs.

After the appointment of Savio Medira and Nabi became a moreAi??prominent player in the team and cemented his place as the left full-back in the squad. He scored Indiaai??i??s equalizer in the 88th minute in a friendly against Malaysia in Guwahati in November and then was rightfully handed the captainai??i??s armband for the second friendly against Malaysia inAi??Kolkata. The captain led by example and India won 3-2.

SAFF Cup was when Nabi rose as the most valuable player for the Boys in BlueAi??with his overlapping runs and solid defending. With Jeje and Chettri looking out of sorts, after their trial with Rangers, Nabi scored India’s first goal against Bhutan, which invigorated the team. His overlapping runs and combination with Clifford Miranda was one to watch out for. Nabi again proved to be Indiaai??i??s man Friday when he scored the opening goal in the 3-1 semi-final win over Maldives. Nabi was the only spark in an otherwise average performance by the team. Sunil Chettri may have won five Man of the Match awards and the Man of the Series award but Nabi was the one who deserved it the most and even Chettri recognized it after the tournament. Ahead of the SAFF final, Afghanistan coach Mohammed Yusuf Kargar had singled out Indian wing back Syed Rahim Nabi as the man to watch out for.

Kurgar said –

ai???Nabi is a great player for India. It is for his calibre that the Indian
defence has been tough to infiltrate in this tournament.ai???

Ai??Strategy: (Left) Nabiai??i??s Role in Indiaai??i??s attack this year (Nabi – Mehtab – Chettri Triangle).

(Right) Indian team in defence.

.

Nabiai??i??s goal scoring ability, along with solid defending, helped India win the SAFF Cup and in the final Nabi played with stitches on his head. This is what Nabi said after the SAFF CupAi??triumph –

ai???Everyone loves to be a striker and score, it makes headlines. But since I have learnt to play in various positions I am a sought-after player. I graduated from the Tata Football Academy (TFA) as a striker.ai???

Nabiai??i??s hard defending and tireless marking of Robben brought out the best from the Dutchman, who was forced to raise his game to get past Nabi. Nabi was by far Indiaai??i??s best player on the field against Bayern and gave a good account of him against the German outfit and the Indian crowd cheered his tackles and his duels with Robben.

Nabi v Robben: The Indian did not give up

Club Career

Nabi joined the TFA in 2001 and after a year joined Mohammedan Sporting, where he played for two seasons scoring 11 goals for the side in 31 outings. His career took off when he joined East Bengal in 2004, where he scored 15 times for the Red-&-Gold outfit in 93 appearances and was an inspirational player. Nabi won the hearts of the Laal-Holud-faithful fans, when he scored a brace against Mohun Bagan in 2009 in the I-League and was adjudged the Man of the Match. Except the I-League Nabi won all the major trophies with East Bengal in his six-year stay at the club and helped them qualify for AFC Cup several times.


The versatile footballer broke the hearts of the East-Bengal fans, when he joined arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in 2011.For the Mariners, Nabi has dished out some impressive performances and has been one of the best Indian players in the I-League. Apart from his solid defending, he has chipped in vital goals for the club. At a young age of 27, Nabi has already played for the three giants of Kolkata – Mohammedan, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and has won the hearts of the fans across the football crazy city.Ai??

The Road Ahead

ai???Nabi-Daai??? as he popularly called by his teammates, is now a senior member of the team and must guide the youngsters along with Gourmangi and Chettri. His desire to work hard and his fitness are admirable and his presence will motivate the young guns to follow suit. Nabi will be an integral part of Savio Medeiraai??i?? s plans in the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup in March and the Nehru Cup in August. He can score, make assists and defend stoutly. At 27, Nabi has a lot of matches ahead of him and is indispensable to the Indian team. He may not be the most flamboyant members of the team but is certainly one of the most effective and dependable players in the country. Talented enough to be a part of any top Asian team, an offer from a foreign club will boost Nabiai??i??s confidence and also improve his skill-set. Nabi completely deserved the AIFF Player of the Year award, which he narrowly lost out to Chettri, but hopefully this is the year he will be rightfully felicitated.

Savioai??i??s Gems: Chettri (right) and Nabi (left)

TheHardTackle hopes Nabi continues with his splendid performances. 2011 was when he announced his arrival as the player to look forward to and the India fans will hope that 2012 is when he will set the stage on fire with his excellent all-round performances, both for country and club.

—–

Written by guest authorAi??Rahul Bhutani

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7 Responses to “THT Heroes: Syed Rahim Nabi – Indiaai??i??s Player Perfect”

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  1. Rudra says:

    When did Raju and Mehtab played in this SAFF? Dika never started in first XI under Savio in SAFF.

    • rahul says:

      I know that Its just a symbolism Rudra .The emphasis is on Nabi and his overlapping runs and not who played in the SAFF cup

      • rahul says:

        I agree with Kunwar Raju and Dika should be starting more often and hence this pic and we all know how Indian midfield missed Mehtab in the middle of the park in the SAFF hence this pic. Thanks a lot Rudra anyways

  2. Kunwar Deep Singh says:

    Thanks Rudra :) .
    l’ll make the changes. the images actually analyse the startegy which we could see implemented , if everyone is fit… We think Dika should start more matches, hence his name.

  3. Siddharth Sharma says:

    Hey author, the attendance was officially 46000 something.
    The earliest reports said 30k because that was the amount of tickets sold online.
    In a later article, TOI Indian footy editor Md Amin ul islam also said around 50,000.
    Correct that man :)