HomeSportsFootballIndia at FIFA World Cup: A Brief History
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India at FIFA World Cup: A Brief History

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India at FIFA World Cup: The Indian national football team played its first match in the year 1948 as a status of an independent nation at the Summer Olympics in Great Britain against France. The Indian national football team players played without footwear (some players played in socks while most played barefoot)

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Indian team lost  against France 2-1. Sarangapani Raman was the lone scorer from India in the match.

Two years later, the fourth edition of the Football World Cup 1950 was to be hosted by Brazil. The previous three being held in 1930, 1934 & 1938. The 1942 & 1946 WC were cancelled due to the World War II.

While determining the makeup of the 1950 World Cup, FIFA decided that the host nation Brazil and 1938 FIFA World Cup winner Italy, would be  given guaranteed spots.

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For remaining fourteen spots that needed to be filled, FIFA decided that seven of those spots would come from Europe, six would come from the Americas and one would come from Asia.


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The four Asian teams that were invited to the World Cup, three of them Philippines, Indonesia and Burma withdrew from the tournament before the qualification round. Therefore, India earned an automatic spot within the World Cup.

India was placed in Pool III along with Sweden, Italy & Paraguay as per the draw of the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Meanwhile, India too withdrew from the tournament.

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India at FIFA: Why did Indian Team withdraw from the FIFA World Cup?

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Was it because FIFA would not allow to play barefoot?

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made it clear to India that they would not be allowed to play in the 1950 FIFA World Cup without footwear as per the rules.

Some believe that India withdrew from the World Cup because FIFA would not allow them to compete barefoot.

Or reason was something else?

  • Failure to appreciate the importance of Football World Cup that time?
  • AIFF just did not take the World Cup seriously, considering the Olympics to be the ultimate goal.

Sailen Manna, retired captain of Indian Football team agrees with this theory. “We had no idea about the World Cup then. Had we been better informed, we would have taken the initiative ourselves. For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger.”

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  • Financial problems & lack of availability of funds travelling to the Brazil?
  • Were there disagreements over team selection and insufficient practice time?

Whatever might of reason for not participating in FIFA World Cup in 1950 but ultimately loser was Indian Football…

“Indian football would have been on a different level had we made that journey.”


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Has India ever participated in FIFA World Cup?

India has never participated in the FIFA World Cup. Although India did qualify by default for the 1950 FIFA World Cup of Brazil after all other nations in their qualification group withdrew.

When did India first participate in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers?

India first participated in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 1950.

Has India ever won any major FIFA tournament?

No, India has not won any major FIFA tournament, but the Indian U-16 team won the South Asian Football Federation Championship in 2018.

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