Kolkata: Former Indian captain Shabbir Ali has became the first footballer to be named for the Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement.
55-year-old Ali, a prolific striker, has played for more than 100 international matches for the country, besides also having spent long years at Kolkata Maidan.
He had also coach some prominent clubs in the country, including I-League sides. He recently guided Bengal to Santosh Trophy title.
Ali, who was ignored for Arjuna Awards, the announcement for the Dhyan Chand Award for his contribution to Indian football, said he would remain the same irrespective of any laurels. He said he would not have any regret if he was ignored for the award this time also.
"Many of my friends, relatives and even son would ask why you were not getting any award... I was recommended for Arjuna three times but never got one. I did not have any regret and continued my duty," Ali said.
"So, indeed, it feels special to have got an award -- finally. I am really thankful to the federation (AIFF and IFA) and the state Sports Minister, Madan Mitra, for recommending my name," Ali said.
"This certainly will rank at the top. The latest always counts. For years, it was the Asian Youth Championship win under my captaincy that ranked at top. Then as a coach, my success with Salgaocar winning National league, Bengal winning Santosh Trophy after 11 years and repeating it again this year became the milestones," Ali said.
"But I`ll remain the same and continue to function the way I used to. An award will not change me overnight," the soft-spoken Ali said.
Named after the legendary Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand, the award, initiated in 2002, carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a statuette, ceremonial dress and a scroll of honour.
As a footballer, Ali was the finest striker in the 70s and 80s both at the national and international level.
He rose to fame at a very early age when he captained India to win the Asian Youth championships in Bangkok jointly with Iran in 1974.
Ali had over 35 goals from about 100 international matches, a feat that was later eclipsed by Bhaichung Bhutia.
After playing with Tatas in Bombay for a few years, Ali came to East Bengal in the late 70s before joining Mohammedan Sporting, taking the club to great heights.
Ali retired from the same club in 1987 and took up coaching with equal success.
As a technical director of the Indian senior team, Ali steered the team to the gold medal in the SAF Championship in Chennai in 1995.
At club level, Ali guided Mohammedan Sporting to four tournaments and finished runners-up in two others. He also took up the challenge of taking Peerless Club to the Calcutta Super Division.
Between 1997 and 1999, Ali coached top Goan outfit Salgaocar and established himself as India`s best coach. It started in 1998 when Salgaocar won the Goa Professional League under him and went on to win the Super Cup defeating the National League champions Mohun Bagan.
Next, Salgaocar won the National League title.
In recent past, he was instrumental in reviving Bengal`s fortune at the national level as he guided the state to their first Santosh Trophy in 11 years in 2010, a success he repeated this year also.