Helal is better known as Helal of Abahani for spending his illustrious playing career in Sky Blues jerseys during the 1970s and 1980s and later served as dedicated organizer and one of the directors of the country’s most successful club
Golam Rabbani Helal, one of the star footballers during the “Golden Age” of Bangladesh football and also a dedicated organizer to serve the country and the club, died yesterday leaving the whole sports arena to mourn.
Helal is better known as Helal of Abahani for spending his illustrious playing career in Sky Blues jerseys during the 1970s and 1980s and later served as dedicated organizer and one of the directors of the country’s most successful club.
He joined star-studded Abahani squad at the age of 15, some months prior to the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and family members including Sheikh Kamal, the eldest son of Bangabandhu and the founder of Abahani.
Abahani, the club itself and its players, members and officials, had to face turmoil due to political situation of the country for years since the deadly 15th August. But Helal never quit the premises until the retirement in 1987, except for a brief 2-3 months at other Dhaka League outfits, Wari Club.
Helal’s 12-year career spell included five Dhaka League titles including a hat-trick of titles from 1983 to 1985 and three Federation Cup titles.
He also had to spend some times at prison following chaos in a Dhaka Derby against Mohammedan in 1982 when 12 were arrested and four Abahani footballers including Kazi Salahuddin, Ashraf Uddin Ahmed Chunnu and Kazi Anwar were sent to jail.
“This is second time I came out of my house in last two and half months and went to Abahani to show my respect to Helal.” said Salahuddin, the football superstar who was both a teammate and manager of Helal at the Sky Blues.
Salahuddin, as Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) President, also had Helal as member of the executive committee for five years.
“He [Helal] is a good human being,” said Chunnu, who was a friend and teammate of Helal for a decade. Chunnu, the legendary left winger, reminded his playing times. “It was during the golden age of football when football was most popular in the country. He is genuinely a striker but he can also play in midfield when it is required. He was superstar in practice ground for his great skills. He was a good dribbler.”
Helal made it to the national team squad in 1979 during a friendly match against South Korea in Dhaka where the visitors won 1-0. He played for national team until 1985. One of his brightest times came during the 20th Asian Youth Football Championship qualifiers in Dhaka in 1982 when Bangladesh qualified for the final round for the first time.
Helal’s ties with Abahani didn’t end after his retirement. He served as organizer and one of the directors of Abahani.
Kazi Nabil Ahmed, the acting director-in-charge of Abahani Limited, expressed deepest condolence. He recalls, “He was a great footballer, a famous striker of his time, a hattrick against Wari is a memorable one. He remained as a dedicated organizer who served football in his entire life.”
The BFF and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) were among many who expressed deep sadness at the passing of Helal through media releases and Abahani said it will keep the flag of the club half raised for three days to show respect to the football legend.