“You will be nearer to heaven through football than through the study of the Gita” remarked Swami Vivekananda. By this he meant that by developing our body and mind, we would be fit to study and understand the meaning of the Gita.
An organized activity resembling football known by the name ‘Cuju’ (Tsu Chu) was popular as early as 2nd century BC. It involved kicking a leather ball through a hole in a piece of silk cloth strung between two 30 foot poles. After arrival of British in India, it was re-invented along with cricket. The decade 1890 marked the beginning of football in India in systematic manner. Sir Mortimer Durand started the Durand Cup in 1888 in Shimla. It is one of the 3rd oldest football tournaments in the world. In its first ever match; Royal Scots Fusiliers beat Highland LI 2-1. In 2007 Churchill Brothers SC won against Mahindra United 1-0. The oldest football club in Asia was established in 1889 known by the name of Mohan Bagan AC. 1911 was a great year for all football fans of India when Mohun Bagan AC became the first Indian club to defeat the foreigners in their own game of football viz. ‘IFA shield’ by scumming down East Yorkshire 2-1.
In 1893 the Indian Football Association came into being. All India Football Federation (AIFF) came into existence on 23rd June, 1937 at Army headquarters, Shimla. Brigadier V.H.B.Majendine was elected as the President of AIFF. It got affiliated to FIFA in 1948. Later it acted as a founding member of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1954.
India won Bronze Medal in the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games. It emerged as Joint winner with South Vietnam in Pesta Sukan Trophy, in the year 1971 at Singapore. Its performance in SAF Games is worth mentioning as it was three time winner of this multi disciplined Games held for South Asian Nations in 1985, 1987 and 1995. It has also won SAFF Championship (earlier called SAARC International Tournament) four times held for South Asian National Football Team in 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2005.
Joseph S. Blatter , FIFA President, during his visit to India expressed that football matches can inspire immense popular fervour in places like Kolkata and Goa. India has failed to capitalize on its early successes achieved in football like qualifying for the 1950 Brazil World Cup and also winning the Asian Games gold in the same year. It would surprise us that India finished ranking fourth in Melbourne Olympics, 1956. Indian National Football Team is the 117th ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings (April 2006). It should be not forgotten that India emerged as the winner of the 13th ONGC Nehru Cup by beating Syria 1-0 in the final on 29th August, 2007 at the Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi. As on 11th July, 2008, India’s men’s team ranked 156th among 216 football playing nations, a rank much below Iraq and Zimbabwe teams. The women’s team ranked 53rd among 117 nations.
As Subhankar Mondal felt that sporting culture takes time to alter and but football is rapidly but steadily trooping into the Indian system. It can be expected that India’s ranking may improve in FIFA. Academies like The Premier India Football Academy should come up to cultivate football players in India. It is time that the Indian Government starts taking football as seriously as cricket and invest in the sport.