News By/Courtesy: Kasturi Nandi | 09 Nov 2020 16:56pm IST


  • Football in Indian view
  • Football in Indian view
  • Football in Indian view

Football in the Indian view

Football has been among the most popular sports in India, nearing the popularity of a long time most popular sport cricket. In 2013, India's current top domestic football league Indian Super League was formed as an unrecognized professional league with eight teams to promote Indian football to the country and world. The league began in 2014 and after the third season, it was recognized as the second national football league, running parallel with the I-League, thus leaving India as one of the few countries with two fully recognized football leagues.[4] After the fifth season, it has been recognized as the top domestic football league in India. Also contested is Santosh Trophy, a knock-out competition between states (provinces) and government institutions.

The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup was hosted by India in the month of October in 2017 and for the first time, the country hosted a FIFA event. The tournament was touted as the most successful FIFA U-17 World Cup ever, with the attendance being a record 1,347,133 surpassing China's 1985 edition where it was 1,230,976. India is also going to host the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Owing to this, India also bid to host the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup but lost to Poland.

The origin of football in India can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century when the game was introduced by British soldiers. Initially, games were played between army teams. However, clubs were soon set up around the country. Calcutta FC was the first club to be established in 1872, though reports suggest that they were initially a rugby club and switched their attentions to football as late as 1894. Other early clubs include Dalhousie Club, Traders Club, and Naval Volunteers Club.[5] Several other football clubs like Sovabazar, Mohun Bagan, and Aryan Club were established in Calcutta around the 1890s. Calcutta, then the capital of British India, soon became the hub of Indian football. Tournaments like Gladstone Cup, Trades Cup, and Cooch Behar Cup were also started around this time. The Durand Cup and IFA Shield were both started in the late nineteenth century.

The first Indian team to achieve success was Sovabazar Club, which won the Trades Cup in 1892. Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was set up in what is now West Bengal in 1889. The club became famous in 1911 when it became the first Indian team to lift the IFA Shield, a tournament previously won only by British teams based in India. It defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment 2–1 in the final of the tournament in a victory that is still regarded by many as the greatest win by an Indian team before Independence.

The Indian Football Association (IFA) was established in Calcutta in 1893, but did not have a single Indian on its board until the 1930s. The All India Football Federation, which runs the game in India, was formed in 1937 but took more than a decade to get affiliated with FIFA. India also insisted on playing barefoot when other nations were putting their boots on and the game was changing fast.[6]

India qualified by default for the 1950 FIFA World Cup as a result of the withdrawal of all of their scheduled opponents. But lack of financial assistance to purchase tickets including the prospects of a very long sea journey meant that the team never made it to Brazil.[6][7] Although FIFA imposed a rule banning barefoot play following the 1948 Olympics where India had played barefoot. The myth that Indians refused to play because they were not allowed to play barefoot is not entirely true, according to the then Indian captain Shailen Manna, it was just a story to cover up the disastrous decision of the AIFF. The team has never since come close to qualifying for the World Cup.[7][8][9][10]

India even picked up the gold medal in football in the first Asian Games in 1951, beating a "booted" Iran by a solitary goal. In 1956, after having put on its boots, India reached the semi-final in Melbourne Olympics football, the first Asian country to do so. It stood fourth in the tournament. In 1962, India again picked up the football gold in the Asian Games.[6] 1951–1962 is usually considered a "golden phase" of Indian football. The National team won numerous titles in this era under the coaching of Syed Abdul Rahim. Other than success in Asian Games football, India also won Merdeka Cup and Quadrangular Tournament while East Bengal garnered rave reviews after its tour of Romania. Rahim's death in the early 1960s pegged Indian football back after a successful period. The former FIFA president Sepp Blatter once famously said that India is "the sleeping giant of world football".[11]

India never qualified for the Olympics after 1960.[6] India did qualify for its first Asian Cup in 1964 but failed to capture the title. India's last important performance in an international tournament was in the 1970 Asian Games when it won the bronze medal by defeating Japan 1–0. In the mid-70s, the Indian youth team jointly won the Youth Asian Cup with Iran. 24 September 1977, was a golden day for Indian Club football, when Mohun Bagan managed to hold on for a memorable 2–2 draw at the legendary Eden Gardens stadium in Calcutta, against a Pele led New York Cosmos. Mohun Bagan would have gone on and won the tie, had it not been for a controversial penalty awarded to the visitors that ensured the spoils were shared. The next day, the Ananda Bazar Patrika described Goutam Sarkar as "India's very own Beckenbauer". Indian football would, however, go through a barren phase in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, gradually losing its foothold as a top Asian team.

In August 2007, the Indian national team won the Nehru Cup for the first time in its history beating Syria 1–0.[12] In August the following year, India defeated Tajikistan 4–1 to lift the AFC Challenge Cup and in turn qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. In August 2009, India again won the Nehru Cup beating Syria on penalties (

In January 2011 India played in the 2011 Asian Cup which was the first time India has played in the Asian Cup for 24 years. India was knocked out in the group stage which contained South KoreaAustralia, and Bahrain.

Ever since the 2011 Asian Cup the All India Football Federation has been working very hard on Indian Football. For instance, they allowed former coach Bob Houghton coach the Indian side in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers. After going first in their AFC Challenge Cup group Bob Houghton was sacked and replaced by Wim Koevermans. Meanwhile, the India national under-23 football team won the first round of the 2012 Olympics qualifiers against Myanmar but were knocked out by Qatar. India played their next official matches against the United Arab Emirates in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which India lost on aggregate 5–2.

In 2014, India hosted the first-ever Unity World Cup in GoaHyderabad, and Bangalore.

India has participated for the first time in FIFA U-17 World Cup as hosts in the 2017 edition of the tournament. This was the first time ever that a team representing India participated in the finals of a FIFA-organised world tournament. India was placed in Group A along with the U.S.AGhana, and Columbia. On 6 October 2017, India played their first-ever match in FIFA U-17 World Cup history in front of 47,000 people against the United States. But unfortunately, India lost the match by 3–0. India played their second match against Colombia. In the 82nd minute, Jeakson Singh became the first Indian goal scorer in the finals of any FIFA organized tournaments. For the third match of the group stage, India faced Ghana where they went down to lose 4–0, finishing bottom of group A.

Recently in 2018, Indian football has reached another level, by defeating Argentina U20 2–1 in the 2018 Cotif Cup and Iraq U16 the defending champions of AFC U-16 Championship by 1–0.



This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being.  

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 09 Nov 2020 21:41pm IST

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