How do empires—not merely of realms but those springing from a fount of exceptional skill—wane? By what slowly unfolding turn of fate does a rich vein of inspiration and influence attenuate into barrenness? The nourishing current that made Hyderabad a powerhouse of Indian football has abandoned that once fecund stream, leaving behind a tract rich in tradition and memory. Consider this: when Andhra (Hyderabad till 1958) defeated Bengal one-nil to win the Under-19 national crown for the Dr B.C. Roy Trophy in 1976—its last national football title—Bhaichung Bhutia was just born. It won the Santosh Trophy thrice and twice in succession, produced a team like Hyderabad City Police that clinched a record five Rovers Cups on the trot and produced over a dozen top players for two successive Olympic and national teams. Our vaunted golden era of football in the ’50s belonged to Hyderabad.
Just like its astonishing rise and dominance, Hyderabad’s precipitous decline was a great setback to the progress of football in India. Yet, between 1950 and 1963 when Hyderabad City Police (later Andhra Police) lifted the Rovers Cup a staggering nine times and landed four Durand titles, the bulk of India’s top players were bred in the heart of the Deccan plateau.