While every Indian football fan dreams to the country step their foot into the FIFA World Cup, all of us are familiar with the fact that the team came mighty close to playing their first World Cup match in 1950. It would have been a colossal moment in Indian football history, to have participated in the biggest sporting event there is but unfortunately, that did not happen.
There are a plethora of reasons that are believed to be behind India’s decision to pull out of the World Cup in 1950. And of course, the most popular one out of those is the “barefoot” one. A lion’s share of the people believes that India withdrew from the prestigious tournament because they were not allowed to play barefoot. Is it true? Let’s find out.
After achieving independence from the UK, Olympics was where India made its mark with their astonishing performance in football. And yes, they played barefoot. It was their first international tournament after independence.
Right after Olympics, FIFA recognized the team spirit of India and invited them for World Cup 1950. However, to make sure India maintain the decorum of this highly respected football tournament, FIFA asked them to wear shoes and play for World Cup.
While this may be one of the reasons, it is not the only one behind India’s withdrawal. One of the reasons that are possible is the expenses. Back then, FIFA was held in Brazil. India was supposed to fly to Brazil via Burma and organizing flight tickets for the entire team was not a matter of joke although FIFA offered to pay for all travel expenses and their accommodation.
But here is a reason that comes as a major possibility. According to India’s ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced that the team would not attend the World Cup, citing “disagreements over team selection, and insufficient practice time.”
Sailen Manna, who would have led India in the tournament, said that the AIFF was not taking the World Cup as seriously as the Olympics.
While no one can guarantee the real reason behind the unfortunate pull off, we continue our hunt for the truth.