Is Indian Football Rising To the Top?

Indian football is definitely on the rise in the recent years. Indian football has come a long way and has been receiving a lot of support and recognition in the recent times. Living in a Cricket dominant country where cricket is considered a superior sport than any other even more than its national sport, it's a bit difficult for a sport to rise from the bottom due to the lack of support of AIFF. Even though of all these holdbacks the Indian football seemed to find its path towards recognition and was able to achieve a noticeable rank all around the world, the hard work of the football players and the constant support of the fans which led to upcoming of football in Indian.

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Indian Football History

India football does have a long and detailed history, most people don't know about it but it used to be the national sport of the country at a time in the history.  The aim for this was to unify the Indian Army. It is also stated that there is evidence for refereed team football games being played in the Indian Army since a long time dating back to 1949. India is also the home to some of the oldest football clubs in the world and the world's third oldest competition, the Durand Cup. This might be unknown to you but Indian football team did qualify by default for the 1950 FIFA World Cup finals as a result of the withdrawal of all of their scheduled opponents. 

But AIFF decided that the team would not be going to the World Cup, and the reason shown by AIFF was that there was the cost of travel, although FIFA agreed to bear a major part of the travel expenses, team selection issues and valuing Olympics over FIFA World cup. The speculation that the Indian team refused to play because they were not allowed to play barefoot is not entirely true; as according to the then-Indian captain Sailen Manna, it was invented to cover up.


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Golden Era of Indian Football

The period from 1951 to 1962 is considered to be the golden era in Indian football as during this time India became the best team in Asia under the instruction and guidance of legendary Syed Abdul Rahim. The 1950's started with a victory in the 1951 Asian Games which they hosted. India reached the final where they beat Iran to take away the Cup. This was the Golden time of Indian football. Four years earlier, most of the teams played without boots but after the result in the Olympics AIFF, it was made mandatory to wear boots.


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Rebirth of Indian Football

The years from 2000-2010 are considered to be the re-birth of Indian football, Although India failed to qualify for the 2004 Asian Cup, the senior team gained the silver medal in the inaugural, losing the final to Uzbekistan. As a result, Indian football had slowly earned a name for itself abroad and in the country itself. In 2006, Bob Houghton was appointed as the coach of the team. Under his guidance, India saw a huge revival as the Indian national team won the Nehru Cup for the first time in its history and lifted the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in the following year and also qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

At the beginning of 2011, India took part in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 27 years but faced defeat in al the matches which they played. 2011 marked a new beginning for the Indian football as since then the All India Football Federation has been working very hard on Indian Football. They allowed former coach Bob Houghton to coach the Indian side in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers where India on top of Group B and qualified for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.

Moreover, in the previous year, India hosted the FIFA under -17 world cup for the first time in history. Although the Indian team could not win the cup but they definitely showed some amazing performance and are determined to improve themselves.