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Did India withdraw from the 1950 World Cup because they were not allowed to play barefoot?

Ritam Dutta
14 Jul 2018
Read Time : 10 Minutes
Did India withdraw from the 1950 World Cup because they were not allowed to play barefoot?

Did India withdraw from the 1950 World Cup because they were not allowed to play barefoot?

Well there is an untold story for us. India surprised the world with their performance in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. The Indian national football team, with every player playing without footwear (some players played in socks while most played barefoot), lost to France in the first round by 2-1 and actually were tied with France at 1 all 70 minutes into the match. This match already drew a great deal of attention as the 1948 Summer Olympics was the first time that India was performing in an international tournament as an independent nation (after gaining their independence from Great Britain). However, the fact that the Indian team did all of this in bare feet drew the most attention.

India have struggled to book a spot in the World Cup for many years. In 1950, India had a chance to play in the big event. But they did not. You may have heard the story that the team was not allowed to play because they wanted to play the tournament barefoot.

At the time, for India, the Olympics was a bigger deal than the football World Cup, which, in 1950, was the fourth edition of the global competition. So the All India Football Federation (AIFF) did not see it fit to send a team halfway around the world via ship. Brazil even offered to sponsor the travel costs, but the AIFF declined.

Turkey too decided not to participate, since it couldn’t travel too far; European sides like Scotland, Ireland, Portugal and France also gave the tournament a miss. The AIFF were wary about the Indian team’s fitness as well, since they played 70-minute games while the teams played for 90 minutes in the World Cup.

The bottom line is that the AIFF thought it made no sense to send a team to a “small” tournament, especially since it would probably be humiliated in front of other teams. India were invited for the World Cup only because all their regional competitors pulled out of the tournament.

“We had no idea about the World Cup then. For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger”, said by Sailen Manna, Indian Football Captain in 1950.

So we are willing to believe Manna and the research of the Indian Sports Illustrated when they say that bare feet was not the major reason India did not attend the 1950 World Cup. Sadly, though, their decision not to attend clearly did affect Indian football. Manna reflected sadly that, "Indian football would have been on a different level had we made that journey."

Source: Google