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Who Was India’s First Football Captain?

Dr Talimeren Ao was an incredibly talented footballer, who played for Kolkata’s premier Mohun Bagan club.Talimeren Ao was the first captain of the India Football team. Fondly known as T Ao, or Tay Ao, or Dr Tay, the Nagaland native has a story that is enriching and legendary.

A footballer and a doctor, he wore both hats with ease. Mohun Bagan Captain and Captain of The India Team, he was the flag-bearer of the Indian Olympic contingent at the 1948 London Games. With the FIFA World Cup fever hitting its zenith, let us remember this football legend who shined with the ball at his feet.

Perhaps one of the most famous Nagas, he was a figurehead of India’s football history, and his name is resonant in the collective memory of the people. In fact, he has two football tournament in his name. Today, we have the IFL, the high-profile Indian Football League, where a team called the NorthEast United dominates the points table.

Well, Dr Talimeren Ao was the region’s first footballing hero. A dominating midfielder and defender for nine seasons at Mohun Bagan, from 1943 to 1952, he was a teammate of Sailen Manna and Taj Mohmmed at the London Olympics. Born in 1918 IN Changki, an Ao village in the then Naga Hills district of Assam, and now in Nagaland’s Mokokchung district, his tribe, the Aos, are one of the Naga Hills. Dr Ao was the fourth of his 12 kids.

In 1933, T Ao was sent to the Jorhat Mission School where he was first exposed to proper football, his skills noticed by both student and teachers. From Jorhat, Ao went to Guwahati, to join the Cotton College, in 1937. This is when his game leveled up. During this time Assam’s largest football club, the Maharana Club, had players who trained at a maidan near the Cotton College, and T Ao joined them in their sessions.

During his time at Maharana, Ao exhibited brilliant footballing skills and commendable sportsmanship. Dr Talimeren A o played football when it was tough for players to make a living from the sport. He has been hounoured with an outdoor stadium in Koliabor near Nagaon and an indoor stadium in Cotton College Guwahati named after him.

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