New Delhi- FIFA president Sepp Blatter Tuesday paid rich tributes to India’s soccer legend Sailendra Nath Manna, who passed away in Kolkata Monday.
Blatter, who will be visiting India next week, hailed Manna as an inspirational leader who has immensely contributed to the game in the country.
“Whether as a player, captain or coach, Sailen Manna was an inspirational leader whose contribution to Indian football was justly recognised during his lifetime and will continue to live on in our memories,” Blatter wrote in a letter to All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel.
“He will also be remembered for his 19 years service to his club Mohun Bagan, which is another reason to place him among true footballing greats, particularly in the modern age, where such royalty is becoming increasingly scarce,” he said.
“… both personally and on behalf of football family, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to his wife, daughter and all of Indian football,” Blatter added.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) acting president Zhang Jilong also expressed his condolences.
“The list of his contribution to Indian and Asian football is long and impressive. He will forever live on in the minds of his fans. Manna’s demise marks the end of an era and the world of football will miss him,” Jilong said.
“On behalf of Asian football family, I would like to offer my sincere condolences on the passing away of Indian football legend Sailendra Nath Manna,” he said.
Rated as one of the best defenders the country has ever produced, Manna was adjudged the country’s footballer of the millennium by the AIFF in 2000. Known for his keen game sense, Manna was famed for his anticipation, covering and set pieces.
He led India to the gold in the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi and also captained the country in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and the 1954 Manila Asian Games.
Under his captaincy, India emerged champions in the Quadrangular tournament – also featuring Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Pakistan – consecutively in 1952, 1953 and 1954.
Manna’s performance as national team skipper drew wholesome praise and the England Football Association named him in its 1953 Yearbook as one of the 10 best captains of the world. To this date,he remains the only Asian to have been thus honoured.