Indian Football Fans
Football in India came along with the British, just like cricket. Although in recent times it is playing a second fiddle to cricket, it had had its share of popularity and golden moments. No big stage in the football circuit save World Cup has managed to elude India in the past. Hence, it would be exciting to revisit the good old days of Indian Football.

The Inception
In its early days, the game used to be a part of the recreation for British military. The first recorded football match in India was played between ‘Calcutta Club of Civilians’ and ‘The Gentlemen of Barrackpore’ in 1854. To take it a step further, various clubs were formed, most of them based in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Calcutta FC is credited as to be the first football club of the nation. Dalhousie Club, Traders Club and Naval Volunteers Club followed. Then came the legendary Mohun Bagan AC in 1889 and the Indian Football Association (IFA) was formed in 1893. The 3rd oldest surviving tournament in the world, Durand Cup, was started by Sir Mortimer Durand in Shimla in 1898.

The Arrival
The India based British teams used to dominate the Indian football scenario until the historic day of 29th July, 1911 when the Mohun Bagan AC trounced the East Yorkshire in the final of IFA shield, becoming the first ‘Indian’ team to do so. That was the day when the ‘home grown’ boys declared their coming of age in the game. This success catalyzed the rapid growth and spread of club football across the nation. The AIFF was formed in 1937 eventually getting affiliated to FIFA in 1948. India played its first International tie on July 31, 1948 against France. They lost the match by 2-1 due to missing two penalties in the sub-zero temperature condition.

The name of Mohammed Salim is worth mentioning here. Back in 1936, when few would have thought that a profession can be made out of a leather ball, he plied his trade in Celtic FC and mesmerized the crowd and the media alike. He was nicknamed ‘The Indian Juggler’ for his immense skills. Sadly, he returned after a few months due to homesickness.

The Crest
The period during 1950-60 is considered as the Golden Era of Indian Football. It started with India qualifying for the 1950 Brazil WC. However, India backed out after not being allowed to field the team barefooted. India won the 1951 Asian Games Gold by defeating the Asian powerhouse Iran in the final. It was followed up by finishing second in the  1954 Asian Games. The 1956 Olympics in Melbourne marks the biggest achievement by Indian football hitherto. It became the 1st Asian team to reach the semi-finals in Olympics and  Indian striker Neville D’Souza became the first Asian to score a hattrick in the quadrennial event. But unfortunately they finished 4th by loosing out to Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in the semi-final and 3rd place playoff respectively. India continued its glorious form by finishing 4th in 1958 Asian Games and winning Gold in 1962 Asian Games.

 And the Fall
The second half of 60s started seeing a sudden downfall in the football standards in India. It started with the first round elimination in 1966 Asian Games. It was a steep fall from there on and Indian football left nothing to write about apart from a Bronze medal in 1970 Asian Games beating Japan 1-0. The domination of Indian football was limited to the subcontinent through SAFF Games and SAFF Cup.

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    December 2010



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