National Youth Team
1974 Asian Youth Championship: The Golden Jubilee of the Golden moment
29 Apr 2024

Fifty years ago, on April 30, 1974, India created history when they won the Asian Youth Championship title jointly with Iran. is running a series of articles on this momentous achievement. In this article, we look back at the tournament where India remained unbeaten in six matches on the trot and the initiative of the AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey to felicitate the heroes of the unforgettable squad.  

AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: When the All India Football Federation sent half a dozen coaches to Patiala—GMH Basha, PK Banerjee, SA Salam, Arun Ghosh, Nikhil Nandy and J Kittoo—along with two selectors, Samar Banerjee and Squadron Leader SS Hakeem—to oversee the India team’s preparations for the 1974 Asian Youth Championship, some news reports alleged that too many cooks could spoil the broth.

It turned out to be an unfounded allegation. The other way around, in fact. The 18-member India team, led by Shabbir Ali, left for Bangkok in the middle of April. On May 2, 1974, the boys returned to Calcutta (now Kolkata) an unbeaten lot with the Joint Winners title in the Asian Youth Championship in their kitty.

Before this, India had participated in the Asian Youth Championship nine times, but could never go beyond the group stage. Till the ‘Class of ’74’ came along.

Grouped with them were record seven-time champions Burma (now Myanmar), Hong Kong and Laos. Skipper Shabbir Ali led from the front, scoring both decisive goals in 1-0 victories over Laos (April 17) and Burma (April 19). Shabbir grabbed the headlines, but vice-captain and left midfielder Prasun Banerjee and goalkeeper Prasanta Mitra were also praised for their displays.

Powered by a brace from Mohammed Yaqoob in a 2-2 draw against Hong Kong in their last group game (April 21), India advanced as the group champions, Hong Kong took the second spot with three points. India would have moved ahead with an all-win record had they not conceded five minutes from time against Hong Kong, having fallen behind in the first half.

Historic quarter-finals entry

Reaching the last eight stages was an achievement for the boys, for whom maintaining focus in the knock-out stages amidst the excitement of scripting ‘history’ was as much a task as taking on Singapore, the runners-up of Group A, also involving Iran, South Vietnam and the Philippines.

When Jacob Chacko put Singapore ahead, the fear of elimination must have made the Indian boys work harder as Shabbir Ali brought them back into the game. Even after extra-time, when there was not much to separate the sides, it needed the glovework of the late Mitra to pull India through as they converted four spot kicks and Singapore only one in the tie-breaker.

The sound counsel of the two coaches, Arun Ghosh and SA Salam, helped the players to ease their nerves. Ghosh’s advice for the tie-breaker was simple. ‘Keep things simple, don’t do anything fancy.’ 

Tougher battle ahead

If Singapore were tough, hosts Thailand were considered to be tougher. Playing in familiar conditions in front of a home crowd naturally made them the more fancied team for the title round. On top of that, they had an all-win record in the tournament thus far, crushing Brunei 7-0, Taiwan 3-0, Japan 1-0 in the group stages and Malaysia 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

India held a grip over the proceedings in the initial phase after kick-off. While AC Devraj and Prasun, kept the midfield zone ticking, forwards Shabbir Ali, Latifuddin and Yaqoob interchanged positions regularly to confuse the home side's defence.

Not that the Thailand attackers were keeping quiet. But the Indian defence line of Dilip Palit, Dev Anand, Amit Dasgupta and CC Jacob gave a good account of themselves. And when Thailand strikers evaded them occasionally, they couldn’t get the better of keeper Mitra, whose acrobatic saves were crucial. In the end, India scored through Shabbir Ali and Yaqoob to win 2-1 after leading by a goal at half time.

Finally, the final

But would it be enough against Iran in the final on April 30? Not only were the odds stacked against India, but the Persian princes were the defending champions. Their form, too, suggested their might. They pumped in 10 goals in a spotless group stage campaign (1-0 vs Singapore, 5-0 vs Philippines, 4-0 vs South Vietnam) and six in the knockouts (3-0 vs Hong Kong in quarters, 3-0 vs South Korea in semis). Not even once could their citadel be breached.

India, on the other hand, were on a high after their successful run to the final. And if they required further motivation, it was provided by the Iranian players themselves. Oblivious to India’s strengths or just dismissive of their abilities, the Iran players sang, chatted and made merry as the two team buses travelled alongside each other towards the stadium from Hotel Sukhumvit on the day of the final. Their apparent indifference towards India wasn’t lost on Salam and Arun Ghosh, who used it as a tool for motivation, insisting their boys show what they are capable of.

The Indians never dropped their shoulders, even after conceding first. Mohammad Dastjerdi put Iran 1-0 ahead at halftime. Responding with a Latifuddin goal, India pushed the game into extra time after a full-time score of 1-1.

In the first minute of extra time, Shabbir Ali’s fifth goal of the competition put India ahead, only for Iran to equalise a few minutes later. As per tournament rules, India and Iran were declared joint winners.

It was by far one of India’s finest wins in international football. Iran were the defending champions and won the title in 1975 and 1976 as well. But in 1974, they had to share the trophy with India.

Former players laud AIFF President

On Tuesday, April 30, 2024, the All India Football Federation will hold a function in Kolkata to felicitate the heroes of the 1974 India Youth Squad. AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey has taken the personal initiative to call all living members and coaches of the squad to celebrate the golden jubilee of great achievement.

“Fifty years have passed since then. Not many people in the current generation remember our achievement,” says Shabbir Ali, who truly led from the front in the historic achievement. “But I am grateful to AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey for arranging this felicitation function. It’s a great gesture on his part,” he added.

“We are grateful to Mr. Chaubey,” said CC Jacob, who did an exemplary job as a defender in the 1974 tournament. “The AIFF President was a fine player himself. So, he has taken the lead in recalling the great achievement.”

Another star in the defence, Dilip Palit, said: “The 1974 victory remained one of the greatest moments of my football career. My sincere thanks to the AIFF President for organising this felicitation function. I am sure that under Mr. Chaubey, Indian football will reach greater heights.”

The Golden Squad of the 1974 Asian Youth Championship:

Goalkeepers: Prasanta Mitra, Chandan Chakravarty.
Defenders: CC Jacob, Joaquim Baretto, Dilip Palit, Amit Dasgupta, B Dayanand, Chinmoy Chatterjee.
Midfielders: AC Devraj, Prasun Banerjee (Vice-captain), PM Kumar, Tapan Bose.
Forwards: Harjinder Singh, Shabbir Ali (Captain), Latifuddin Najam, Sisir Guha Dastidar, Mohammed Yaqoob, Gobinda (Ranjit) Das.

Coaches: A Salam and Arun Ghosh.
Manager: Dilip Kumar Ghosh

Related news