India is one of those countries where the football revolution has only just begun. The advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) went a long way in promoting the sport in India. More and more people from the country take up this beautiful sport every day and enjoy it.
Over the years, the modern day stars like Sunil Chettri, Sandesh Jingan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and others have become household names in the country as fans continue to ponder why the Indian team is not participating in the FIFA World Cup. Or why don’t the country’s top players play in the top European league?
Did you know that India had some solid success playing football at the Olympics? Or that the Indian soccer team played their first international match at the Olympic Games?
1948 Olympic Games in London
Indian national team at the 1948 London Olympics. (Left to right) Back row – Dhanraj, Mahabir Prasad, SABaseer, S. Nandi, KVVaradaraj, Varghese Papen, coach Balaidas Chatterjee. (Left to right) First row – Sahu Mewalal, Ahmed Khan, Captain Talimeren Ao, S. Raman, Sailen Manna
As a newly independent nation, India made its international football debut at the London Games in 1948. The Indian team that competed in London was led by Talisman Talimeren Ao. They played their first international match against France in front of 17,000 spectators. Despite losing the match 2-1, the Indians were the toast of the world when 8 out of 11 players played the match barefoot.
After the game, Indian skipper Talimeren Ao said: “You see, we are playing soccer in India while you are playing bootball.” This quote immediately hit the headlines and made Ao a star overnight.
The first international goal for India was scored by Sarangapani Raman in the 70th minute of the game. Being a knockout tournament, India crashed out of the Olympics after winning Rene Persillon in the final moments of the game.
1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki
Indian team in a fight against Bulgaria at the 1956 Olympic Games
India joined the Helsinki Games in 1952 under the leadership of Sailen Manna. The only game the Indian team played in the 1952 Olympics is still India’s biggest defeat in an international game.
In the competition against the eventual silver medal winners of the tournament, Yugoslavia, India, it was beaten 10: 1. The only goal for India was scored by Ahmed Khan late in the 89th minute of the game.
1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne
The Melbourne Olympics in 1956 will be remembered as the most successful for the Indian soccer team in a long time as they finished in fourth place and reached the Olympic Games semi-finals.
Under the leadership of Samar Banerjee, India had a round in the first game of the tournament as Hungary, in which Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis withdrew from the games due to the Hungarian revolution that was taking place at the time.
After a walkover, the Indians reached the quarterfinals and recorded their first win at the Olympics 4-2 against Australia. Young Neville D’Souza scored a hat-trick – the first by an Asian at the Olympics, while Kishan Kittu scored the fourth goal, to get India to the semi-finals.
India faced similar opponents in the semifinals in the form of Yugoslavia and lost 4-1, despite taking a 1-0 lead through Neville D ‘Souza in the 52nd minute of the game.
That defeat to the Yugoslavs meant the Indians faced Bulgaria for the bronze medal game, which they lost 3-0 and finished fourth in the tournament. With his incredible performances, Neville D ‘Souza became the tournament’s joint top scorer.
1960 Olympic Games in Rome
India national football team before the 1960 Olympic Games. Front row: Coach Syed Rahim (center), Chuni Goswami (2nd from left), PK Banerjee (3rd from left), Mariappa Kempaiah (2nd from left) Middle row: Peter Thangaraj (4th from left) ), Jarnail Singh (3rd from left)), Simon Sundararaj (2nd from left), SS Narayan (4th from right)
The 1960 Olympic Games in Rome were India’s last appearance at the Olympic Games. It was at this point that the group system was introduced at the Olympics and India, led by the legendary PK Banerjee, was paired with Hungary, France and Peru.
India fought very hard in their first game against eventual bronze medalist Hungary before finally losing 2-1. The Hungarians appeared to take a 2-0 lead in the game, but the Indians made a late comeback when Tulsidas Balram pulled one back in the 79th minute to give India a glimmer of hope. It shouldn’t be that India didn’t find the back of the net again in the game.
Against a much stronger France, the Indians took a 1-0 lead in the 71st minute thanks to a goal from skipper PK Banerjee. But the Les Blues hit back with a late equalizer to bring India to a 1-1 draw.
Tulsidas Balram played Peru in the final group stage and scored the only goal for India when they were knocked out 3-1.