Syed Abdul Rahim: The Greatest Manager in the history of Indian Football

Today we are talking about an Indian Football Coach who is considered as Alex Ferguson of India. We are talking about the Architect of Modern Indian Football Syed Abdul Rahim who took Indian football from playing barefoot to winning championships. 

Keep reading as we look into Syed Abdul Rahim’s journey to the top. 

Syed Abdul Rahim- The untold story of the greatest manager in Indian Football 

Early Life and Playing Career 

Syed Abdul Rahim was born on 17 August 1909 in Hyderabad, he had been very interested in sports since his childhood and possessed great football skills at a very young age.

When football culture became popular in Hyderabad in the mid-1920s, many young children took an interest in football and one of them was Abdul Rahim who started playing football for Osmania University in 1927. 

Rahim started his professional career as a teacher but his first love was always football and he was one of the greatest players of Hyderabad from 1920-1940s when he played for Hyderabad’s ‘Qamar’ which was regarded as the best club in Hyderabad’s local football league. 

In 1950, Rahim also played for the Dutch club HSV Hoek and after that, he started his coaching career.

Coaching Career

In 1943, Abdul Rahim was elected Secretary of the Hyderabad Association and then he also became Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Football Association. Rahim had a huge contribution in developing training and infrastructural facilities for football in Hyderabad. With this good connection, he started coaching the Hyderabad Police team in 1950.

Style of Play 

Coming from a teaching background, Rahim was very strict and disciplined and he knew very well how to get the best out of the available resources. 

Rahim was a very clever tactician and when he was in Hyderabad, he organized non-dribbling football events so that young footballers could learn how to utilize the available space by passing the ball more

Similarly, he also organized weak foot matches where players were allowed to touch the ball only with their weak foot so that they could develop weak foot abilities.

Rahim was far ahead of his time when all the teams used 2-3-2-3 or 3-3-4 formation. He introduced the classic 4-2-4 formation much before Brazil popularized it in the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

In his system, the striker used to drop in the midfield allowing the fullbacks to attack higher on the flanks, and this style was seen in many top European teams later on. 

When Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool won the Premier League title in the 2019-20 season his team also had a similar tactic where Firminio used to drop in the midfield allowing Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson to join the attack.  

Rahim’s Shrewd Tactics and Forward Thinking played a huge role in his successful  Managerial career. 

Hyderabad City Police Team Coach (1950-1963)

Rahim had coached the Hyderabad City police team from 1950-1963. Under him, Hyderabad won 5 consecutive Rovers cups from 1950-1955. Hyderabad also played in 5 Durand Cup Finals in which they won the Durand Cup 3 times.

The finest player of the Hyderabad team Muhammad Noor had this to say about Syed Abdul Rahim’s coaching, Often at practice, we had just one football and for refreshments afterward just a cup of tea but our hard practice, a will to succeed and excellent coaching from the late Rahim Saheb enabled us to become a successful team” 

Rahim also managed the Hyderabad team in which most of the players were from the Hyderabad City police team and he led them to back-to-back Santosh Trophy titles in 1957 and 1958. 

Indian National Team Coach (1950-1963) 

Abdul Rahim became the coach of the Indian team in 1950 and it was the year when India refused to participate in the 1950 FIFA World Cup which was to be held in Brazil.

Abdul Rahim’s first major tournament with the Indian team was the Inaugural Asian Games held in Delhi in 1951. He led India to a Gold Medal finish. India defeated Iran 1-0 in the final and this marked the beginning of the Golden Era of Indian football.

After this India also won 2 Colombo Cups in 1952 and 1954 before heading to Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Abdul Rahim’s Indian team created history once again when they defeated hosts Australia 4-2 in the Quarter Final thanks to Neville D’Souza’s hat trick who also became the first Asian to score a hat trick at the Olympics. 

India became the first Asian team to qualify for the semifinals at the Olympics and finished 4th in the tournament. Abdul Rahim’s Indian team had legends like P.K. Banerjee, Chuni Goswami and Neville D’Souza. 

Abdul Rahim’s last major achievement with the Indian football team came in the 1962 Asian Games where the Indian team repeated their success of 1951 and won the Gold Medal for the 2nd time defeating South Korea in front of a crowd of Around 1 lakh people.

Before the night of the Final, Rahim had said to his players, “Aap logo se mujhe ek taufa chahiye, aap log baas kal sona jit lo..”  (“ I need a gift from you guys, just win the gold medal tomorrow”)  And his players did not disappoint him.

Rahim Saab’s Indian team was known for its technical qualities and tactical innovations.

Abdul Rahim’s coaching tenure was considered as the golden generation of Indian Football but with his death that golden era also ended.


At the beginning of 1963, Abdul Rahim was diagnosed with cancer due to which he was on bed rest for 6 months and he sadly died on 11 June 1963. 

Former Indian footballer Fortuno Franco said this about Abdul Rahim “With him he took Indian Football to the grave”


Syed Abdul Rahim, the visionary coach and architect of modern Indian football, left an indelible mark on the sport.

From player to strategist, Rahim’s journey redefined Indian football, leading to triumphs at the national and international levels.

His tactical innovations, shrewd coaching, and the golden era he ushered ended with his untimely demise. Rahim’s legacy echoes in the annals of Indian football, immortalizing him as the greatest manager in its history. 

What do you think?

Written by Mith Panchal

Welcome to my corner of the internet, where my love for football meets the art of storytelling. I'm Mith Panchal,I make memes and write blogs here at tacklefrombehind. Most importantly I’m a crazy football addict just like you guys.

My journey in Football started in 2012 because I liked how Cristiano Ronaldo played in FIFA so out of curiosity I watched a few games of Real Madrid and Cristiano and since that day I've been a proud Madridista.

I think that every football game, every football team, and every player has a story to tell. I like to explore those stories and share the best of them with you guys through these blogs.

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