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India's forgotten soccer glory

Indian Football Team ranked 9th in FIFA World Rankings in 1957 Source: Facebook/Khoobkhelo.in

Did you know that India actually qualified to play in the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil? But alas, the Indian team didn't actually play in the tournament.

India loves cricket, but there is a veritable population in some pockets of the country that worships football.

And with the FIFA World Cup 2018 underway, the fans of the sport are busy proclaiming allegiance to their favourite teams and stars.

Cheering up for international football legends like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar Junior, if there is one desire that flutters in every Indian football fan's heart, it is the dream to witness their home team kicking some action on the world stage.

From Russua
Football fans from India in Russia
Christophe Mallet

 

But not many people may know the fact that the soccer dream nearly came into fruition in 1950 when India had qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

At the time, India did not make the cut on merit but by default, because all of its opponents withdrew -- handing India an automatic berth in the World Cup.

However, India never went on to play.

While the All India Football Federation (AIFF) till date has maintained travel costs, lack of practice time and disagreements over team selection as some of the reasons for not sending the team to Brazil, there are a few who believe in the theory that the team was disqualified because they wanted to play bare-foot.

It is a fact that India's soccer players competed in the 1948 Olympics without any shoes, after which a rule was brought in that no teams could participate with bare feet.

So whatever may be the reasons for India not playing in the FIFA 1950 World Cup,  the fact remains that India missed a historic opportunity of leaving its mark in arguably the world’s greatest sports spectacle.

And 68 years on, the Indian fans are still waiting for the golden moment when their home team will kick some balls in the back of the net in the World Cup.

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