Football is the most popular sport in the world. Everybody loves the sport. Every football season is like a festival. But, football World Cup trumps all of that. It comes after every 4 year and takes over the entire world. Over 216 teams compete to be a part of the World Cup but after 2-4 years of qualification process 31 out 32 teams (1 spot is reserved for the Host nation) are confirmed.
So, when story emerges that India qualified for the World Cup in 1950 but did not play, it is quite understandable to wonder why?
India had a chance to play in the 1950 World Cup, but they did not. The team was not allowed to play because they wanted to play the tournament barefoot.
Is the story true? NO! It is a convenient lie, modified over time to cover up the blunder that actually happened.
The reason of players wanting to play barefoot is a myth.
India qualified by default for the 1950 FIFA World Cup finals as a result of the withdrawal of all of their scheduled opponents. Host nation, Brazil had invited India. But the governing body AIFF decided against going to the World Cup. At the time, for India, the Olympics was a bigger football deal than the World Cup. All India Football Federation, AIFF, did not see it fit to send a team halfway around the globe.
Reasons given by AIFF included the cost of travel (despite the fact that FIFA agreed to bear a major part of the travel expenses), lack of practice time, team selection issues and valuing the Olympics over the FIFA World Cup. AIFF also said that they fear about Indian team’s fitness, since they played 70 minute games while the teams in World Cup play for 90 minutes.
So, that barefoot thing is false. According to the then Indian captain Sailen Manna, it was just a story to cover up the disastrous decision of the AIFF.
The bottom line is that the AIFF thought it was unreasonable to send a team to a “small and insignificant” tournament, especially since it would probably lead to humiliation of India in front of other teams. India was invited for the World Cup only because all their regional competitors pulled out of the tournament. So, you can see why the cover up reason was spread. But the fact remains that India did miss the chance to play in the World Cup.
India hasn’t been able to qualify for the world cup ever since and that’s why 1950 World Cup stings more. Hopefully India will qualify for the world cup soon. If you see the signs, they are positive. Captain Sunil Chhetri is guiding India well and team India is at an all time high in the rankings. We did miss out on this World Cup 2018 too, but maybe we can make it to the next one.
By Raj Kishan