Football is the most popular sport in India after Cricket. The game was popularised by the British. Read a short history of Indian football here.
India was one of the first countries in Asia where Football began to dig its roots. Even though it was the British rulers who brought the game here, like Cricket, it was a Calcutta University professor who popularised the sport more in India. When he went England for his studies, he returned with the knowledge of the laws of the game. It was in the 1870s.
It was in Kolkata, the game of Football found its first admirers. The city is called the Meca of Indian Football. There had been a lot of matches conducted between Indian teams and British teams.
It was encouraged by the British rulers as a way to defeat and humiliate the Indians. The Indian teams had to play barefooted against the strong and experienced British teams. Yet, there was enough talent in India to hold the British in the same level.
As a testament to the Indian talent, Mohun Bagan Club of Kolkata won the IFA Shield Championship in 1911. It was the first landmark in the history of Indian Football. The victory of Bagan triggered a wave of enthusiasm in the country and many new clubs were born in the following years.
East Bengal FC and Mohammadans Sporting are two important Football clubs that were formed in Kolkata after the First World War. Not much later, the All India Football Federation was formed. Samad, Sarath Singh and Gastopal were the most renowned Indian players that time.
India participated in Olympic Football for the first time in 1948. In the first game, they lost to France for 1-2. They also participated in 1952 Helsinki Olypics but didn't make any achievements in either. The Melbourne Olympics of 1956 brought glory to Indian Football as the team reached the Semi Finals of the competition, becoming the first Asian country to do so. In semis, they lost to Yugoslavia for 1-4 and in the match for third place, they lost to Bulgaria 0-3. Sankar Bannerjee was the captain of the team. India played in Olympics for the last time in 1960.
Once, India was one of the Football powers in Asia. The country was the champion in the first Asiad in 1951. India won gold in 1962 Asian Games and Bronze in 1970 games.
India has also had great achievements in SAAF Games. They won Gold in 1985, 1987 and 1995 editions of the games.
The Nehru Gold Cup, instituted in 1982, is the largest international tournament taking place in India. India has only won the trophy once. The newly instituted Indian Super League is aimed at developing football at grassroot levels.
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