Aga Khan Gold Cup

Aga Khan Gold Cup
Sport Football
Founded 1958
Ceased 1982
No. of teams various
Countries Asia

The Aga Khan Gold Cup was played in Dhaka, East Pakistan(Bangladesh) which invited top club sides from leading football playing nations to compete. Some people regard this competition as a predecessor of AFC Champions League (held for the first time in 1967), since it was the first organized international competition that involved club teams around Asia.[1][2] During the late 1950s and early 1980s,it was a prestigious tournament among Asian clubs.


When Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini of Iran, now known as Aga Khan IV visit in 1958, the highness expressed his interest to start a major international football club tournament in the region. With his highness providing the funding required for the Gold Cup,the football authorities of East Pakistan in collaboration with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to go ahead with the idea. Dhaka, the football capital of the country, was the obvious choice as the venue. Initially, the idea was to gradually develop this event into the main international club competition of Asia with the winning team will be declared as unofficial Asian Champions'. However, the tournament expectation has not been fulfilled reached as various associations insisted on sending national selections(the team that was formed by top clubs players in the National League) rather than clubs. Soon, it was discontinued since 1981.

The Pakistan days (1958-1970)

Teams from both East and West Pakistan regularly participated in the event. Among the foreign countries, Indonesia almost always sent a team, and their team won the event 3 times during this period. The India club from Calcutta Mohammedan played brilliant football to lift the 1960 trophy. Sri Lanka sent teams regularly with modest success. The uneasy political relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia meant that the Malaysian football authorities frequently declined invitation to participate not until 1976 when Penang FA won it.

In 1958, The Karachi Kickers led by Abdul Ghafoor Majna became the first champions defeating, their city rivals Dhaka Mohammedan. The Dhaka Mohammedan won the double next year, winning the Aga Khan Gold Cup along with the Dhaka League title. It was another Mohammedan, this time the black and whites from Calcutta, who lifted the trophy the next year. The final between the Calcutta giants and PSM Makassar from Indonesia is still regarded as one of the best matches ever played at Dhaka. The Indonesians went into the final as the favorites, but the Makran players of Calcutta Mohammedan triumphed in the final, winning by 3 goals to 1. There was no denying the Indonesian team next year. A thumping 5-0 win in the final over Pakistan Railways F.C. ensured the trophy for them. The Indonesian football at that time was on a high. In August, their national team had lifted the Merdeka cup in Malaysia, while their junior team was joint champions in Asian Youth football. The team at Dacca was a mixture of both these teams, but it was officially regarded as the Indonesia XI. After two years of foreign domination, local pride was restored by Dhaka League inaugural champion, Victoria Sporting Club, in 1962. In another one sided final, they thrashed the Young Taegeuk Football Association, the feeder team from South Korea 5-1 in the final. Like the Calcutta Mohammedan, the Victoria side was filled with Makran players. Many at the time considered Victoria SC side to be the strongest club side in Asia. To further emphasize the strength of Pakistani football at the time, the Pakistan Railways F.C. (West Pakistan) won the trophy the next year. And, Dhaka Mohammedan and Karachi Port Trust F.C. shared the honor in 1964. As Pakistan got involved in a war with India in 1965, no tournament was held that year. When the event restarted a year later, the PSSI Young Garuda or the feeder team from Indonesia emerged as the champs. They defeated Dhaka Mohammedan in the final 2-1. PSMS Medan (Indonesia) won the cup in 1967. But, the Indonesian domination was broken in 1968, as Dhaka Mohammedan, the most successful club in Aga Khan Gold Cup history, won the cup .After a break in 1969, due to political unrest, the 1970 final saw the Bargh Shiraz F.C. of Iran defeat the Persebaya Surabaya of Indonesia 2-1 in the final. This would be the last Aga Khan Gold Cup in Pakistan, as the country would be divided into two parts in 1971, with the eastern half emerging as the new independent nation of Bangladesh, with Dhaka as its capital.

After the Independence (1975-1981)

The nine month long liberation war of Bangladesh saw the region being devastated. There was widespread genocide and most of the Bengali football players had to flee to Calcutta (West Bengal, India) to save their lives. There they formed a team called Shadhin Bangla Football Team, under the leadership of Dhaka Mohammedan captain Zakaria Pintu. Also included in the side was a budding striker called Kazi Salahuddin, destined later to become the greatest footballer to come from Bangladesh. Later on in 2008, 28 April, he elected as the president of Bangladesh Football Federation. Back in 1971, the Swadhin Bangla team played a number of exhibition games against different teams of West Bengal to increase the support for the independence of Bangladesh. After the war, the authorities gradually tried to rebuild the infrastructure of football. The Dhaka League restarted in 1973, and in 1975, the authorities were ready to restart the Aga khan Gold Cup. Raj-Vithi F.C. of Thailand, and the FC Punjab Police team from India were among the foreign participants. Unfortunately, the political situation of Dhaka became very volatile at the time forcing the organizers to abandon the event.

In November 1976, Shukor Salleh dominated the midfield, and both the Bakar brothers got in the score-sheet, as Penang FA won 3-0. It was a big disappointment for Dhaka Mohammedan to lose in the final. The Iran club from Sepidrood Rasht F.C. lift the 1977/78 season trophy.

In October 1978, Dhaka hosted the Asian Youth football tournament. So, the authorities felt that holding the Aga Khan Gold Cup tournament that year would not be a good idea. So, the next event took place in 1979. This was the biggest event (in terms of teams or matches) after independence. But, at the end the teams as well as the spectators got a bit bored. The two group stages were unnecessary. And to make matter worse for the organizers, there was huge discrepancy among the strengths of the different sides. The Chinese team, Liaoning Whowin F.C. started their campaign with a 9-0 drubbing of Nepal XI Selection. The Burmese side, Finance and Revenue FC thrashed the Dhaka Wanderers 8-0. Abahani was the most successful local side, but for the 3rd time in a row, they lost in the semis to eventual champions (this time NIAC Mitra from Indonesia). Like the Chinese, the team from Indonesia showed their strength early in the event, as they beat a strong Korea League XI Selection side 4-1 in the first group stages. The striker Dullah Rahim and midfielder Shamsul Arefin were among the best players of the tournament. In the Semi final, they easily beat Abahani Limited 2-0. The Liaoning side defeated Burma, Finance and Revenue FC 2-1 in the other semi final. The final was a drab affair. After a 1-1 draw, the NIAC Mitra side prevailed in the penalty shoot-out win against Liaoning Whowin F.C..

In 1981, The 10 team event proved much more successful. Good crowd gathered to watch the matches, despite the fact that this tournament coincided with the World Cup Hockey going on at Mumbai. Unfortunately, some internal disputes among the football authorities of the country meant that this would be the last edition of the cup. For the 1st time since independence, two local teams made it to the semis. 3 times winner Dhaka Mohammedan was joined by Brothers Union. Brothers caused an upset in the first SF, defeating the Oman XI Selection. The team from middle-east was possibly the strongest team in the tournament. But, after taking an early lead they lost their heads. Admittedly, a number of decisions went against them, but they should have shown more professional attitude. There was no upset in the other semi final, as the Bangkok Bank F.C. side won 3-1. The Bangkok side was the clear favorite for the finals, but having got so close the Brothers Union side was determined to show their best in the final. At the end they fully deserved the 1-1 draw they achieved. This time there was no provision of penalty shoot-outs and the two teams were declared join champions.

In March 1981, Dhaka hosted the President's Gold Cup. The organizers of the new event declared their intention to make it a competition among the national teams of the region. However, very soon it was clear that the invited countries were sending their youth teams or club teams for the event. Two international club competitions at the same city looked unnecessary, and the authorities decided to continue the President's Gold Cup ending the days of Aga Khan Gold Cup football. Interestingly the President's Gold Cup itself became a start and stop affair before its end in 1993.

A Possible Revival

Over the last two decades there has been a big change in the sporting culture of Bangladesh. Cricket has replaced Football as the number one passion of young generation. In fact, many consider football to be a minority sports in the country now. In this dire situation, Kazi Salahuddin took over the BFF presidency in 2008. Salahuddin immediately took some steps to restore the image of football within the country. During the summer of 2009, there was some talk in the local media about the restarting of the famous Aga Khan Gold Cup football. There was interest among all the parties involved, and there was keen interest shown by the TV Channels as well. Unfortunately, after the initial euphoria, the idea has subsided for some reason or other.,


Below are the list of champions in unofficial Asian Champions' Cup tournament since 1958.[3]


External links

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