Former coach of Indian football team Rustam Akramov, who introduced the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia to international play in 1995 and propelled the Blue Tigers to their highest FIFA rankings ever, has died in his hometown in Uzbekistan. He was 73. The legendary Uzbek coach died on February 15, according to the official website of the National Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan. “The National Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan, Council of Sports Veterans of Uzbekistan extend their condolences to Rustam Akramov’s family and friends in connection with his death,” the Uzbekistan Olympic Body said.
During his career, he made a huge contribution to the development of Uzbek and former Soviet football.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) expressed its condolences on the death of Akramov, who was in charge of the national team from 1995 to 1997.
“We mourn the passing of former India National Team head coach Rustam Akramov. May his soul rest in peace,” the AIFF official Twitter handle read.
— Indian football team (@IndianFootball) February 20, 2022
Akramov did not have a major trophy to display during his short tenure with the Indian team, but it was he who gave the then Sikkimese teenager – Bhaichung Bhutia – his debut in a Nehru Cup match against Thailand in March 1995.
Akramov helped Bhutia develop as a striker instead of playing as an attacking midfielder at club level. The Indian team under Akramov was packed alongside a young Bhutia with great players like IM Vijayan, Carlton Chapman and Bruno Coutinho.
No wonder the Indian team coached by Akramov rose to 94th in the February 1996 FIFA rankings – the highest ever. The team came close to this feat in 2017 and 2018 when it rose to 96th place.
Born in 1948 in a place near Tashkent, Akramov was a legend in his country as he was the first coach of the Uzbek national team after independence. During his two-year tenure from 1992-1994, the Uzbek national team won the Hiroshima Asian Games (1994) and the Central Asian Championship.
For his great contribution to the development of Uzbek football, he was awarded the Shukhrat Medal and the title of Honored Coach of the Republic of Uzbekistan from the government.
In 1970, he graduated as a coach from the football department of the Uzbek State Institute of Physical Culture. He also completed postgraduate studies at the Moscow Institute of Physical Culture.
He had coached clubs in Algeria and was on the coaching staff of that country’s national team. He was also the coach of the Tashkent Pakhtakor and the Moscow CSKA youth team. He later worked as AFC Technical Director and FIFA Instructor.
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