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Football in India

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Football in India

Football in India
Country India
Governing body

All India Football Federation (AIFF)

(formed in 1937, joined FIFA in 1948)[1]
National team India
Nickname(s) Blue Tigers
First played 1800s
National competitions
International competitions

Football is India's second most popular sport, next to the game of cricket.[3] Traditionally it has enjoyed popularity in the regions such as West Bengal, Goa, Kerala, and the entire north-eastern India, especially Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.[2] Dr.T.Ao, the Captain of the Indian Football Team to the London Olympics, 1948, and Captain of the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club in 1948 and 1949 hailed from Nagaland.

India's current top domestic league, I-League, was formed in 2007 in an attempt to professionalize domestic football.[4] Also contested is Santosh Trophy, a knock-out competition between states (provinces) and government institutions. The current captain of the Indian national team is Sunil Chhetri and the team is coached by Wim Koevermans. India is currently ranked 159th in the FIFA World Rankings.[1][5][6]

The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup is scheduled to take place in India. By virtue of being the host country, the Indian team will play in the tournament.[7]


The origin of football in India can be traced back to mid-nineteenth century when the game was introduced by British soldiers. Initially, games were played between army teams. However, clubs were soon set up around the country. Several football clubs like Calcutta FC, Sovabazar, Mohun Bagan and Aryan Club were established in Calcutta around the 1890s. Calcutta, then capital of British India, soon became the hub of Indian football. Tournaments like Gladstone Cup, Trades Cup and Cooch Behar Cup was also started around this time. The Durand Cup and IFA Shield were both started in late nineteenth century.

The first Indian team to achieve success was Sovabazar Club, which won the Trades Cup in 1892. Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was set up in what is now West Bengal in 1889. The club became famous in 1911 when it became the first Indian team to lift the IFA Shield, a tournament previously won only by British teams based in India. It defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment 2–1 in the final of the tournament in a victory that is still regarded by many as the greatest win by an Indian team before Independence.

The Indian Football Association (IFA) was established in Calcutta in 1893, but did not have a single Indian on its board until the 1930s. The All India Football Federation, which runs the game in India, was formed in 1937, but took more than a decade to get affiliated with FIFA. India also insisted on playing barefoot when other nations were putting their boots on and the game was changing fast.[8]

India qualified by default for the [9][10][11][12]

India even picked up the gold in football in the first Asian Games in 1951, beating a "booted" Iran by a solitary goal. In 1956, after having put on its boots, India reached the semi-final in Melbourne Olympics football, the first Asian country to do so. It stood fourth in the tournament. In 1962, India again picked up the football gold in the Asian Games.[8] 1951–1962 is usually considered as "golden phase" of Indian football. The National team won numerous titles in this era under the coaching of Syed Abdul Rahim. Other than success in Asian Games football, India also won Merdeka Cup and Quadrangular Tournament while East Bengal garnered rave reviews after its tour of Romania. Rahim's death in the early 1960s pegged Indian football back after a successful period.

India never qualified for the Olympics after 1960.[8] India did qualify for its first Asian Cup in 1964 but failed to capture the title. India's last important performance in an international tournament was in 1970 Asian Games, when it won the bronze medal by defeating Japan 1–0. In mid-70s, Indian youth team jointly won the Youth Asian Cup with Iran. Indian football would go through a barren phase in 70s, 80s and 90s, gradually losing its foothold as a top Asian team.

In August 2007, the Indian national team won the Nehru Cup for the first time in its history beating Syria 1–0.[13] In August the following year, India defeated Tajikistan 4–1 to lift the AFC Challenge Cup and in turn qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. In August 2009, India again won the Nehru Cup beating Syria in penalty (6–5).

In January 2011 India played in the 2011 Asian Cup which was the first time India has played in the Asian Cup for 24 years. India were knocked out in the group stage which contained South Korea, Australia, and Bahrain.

Ever since the 2011 Asian Cup the All India Football Federation has been working very hard on Indian Football. For instance they allowed former coach Bob Houghton coach the Indian side in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers. After going first in there AFC Challenge Cup group Bob Houghton was sacked and replaced by the current Indian coach Wim Koevermans. Meanwhile the India national under-23 football team won the first round of the 2012 Olympics qualifiers against Myanmar but were knocked out by Qatar. India played their next official matches against United Arab Emirates in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which India lost on aggregate 5–2.

League system


National Football League, established in 1996 by governing body All India Football Federation (AIFF) was the first "semi-professional" football league in India. The League was renamed and restructured and the I-League was founded in 2006 after India's former top league the National Football League disbanded in a successful effort aimed at increasing the game in India. Links with clubs that were not in the I-League were maintained, and each season the bottom two clubs are relegated from the I-League and replaced by two from the I-League 2nd Division. The I-League is contested between 14 clubs each season.

I-League 2nd Division

The I-League 2nd Division ranks second in the hierarchy of Indian football since the disbanding of India's top league in 2005. The I-League 2nd Division has 21 member clubs evenly divided among three divisions. Promotion and relegation of clubs still takes place between the I-league and the I-League 2nd Division.

State League football

State league football is considered the best amateur leagues in India. Each state has their own league in India. There is no promotion/relegation between the state leagues and the I-League 2nd Division but there could be promotion/relegation between leagues within the state. For example, the Calcutta Football League has three divisions with promotion/relegation but the winner of the Calcutta Football League will not get promoted to the I-League 2nd Division.

Calcutta Football League

Calcutta Football League (CFL) is the football league system where several football clubs of the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta) participate. It currently consists of six-tier pyramid system.Indian Football Association (IFA) conducts the CFL with 157 mostly Kolkata based clubs and units. Started in 1898, this league is the oldest league in Asia and one of the oldest in the world. There are about 8500 directly registered players of IFA whoparticipate in CFL.

Youth leagues

Right now the official youth league in India is the I-League U19 which was won by Pune FC in 2012.

Indian Super league

The Indian Super League was founded in 2013 in an effort to make football a top sport in India and to make Indian football a major player worldwide.[1] The league operates along the lines of the Twenty20 cricket Indian Premier League, and Major League Soccer of the United States.[4] Unlike the majority of football leagues around the world, the ISL does not use the promotion and relegation system. Instead, it uses a FRANCHISE system in which eight teams were created to participate in the league.

Cup competitions

  • Federation Cup: The Federation Cup (abbreviated as Fed cup) is an annual knockout style club football tournament in India. It has started in 1977. From its inception till I-League has been started in 1997 (then called NFL), it was the most prestigious national level club football tournament in India. Presently it is the most important club tournament after I-league. Winning club of Federation cup gets a chance to compete in the continental level in AFC Cup along with I-league champion team.
  • Durand Cup: The Durand Football Tournament was started by then, India's Foreign Secretary, Mortimer Durand at Simla, India, in 1888, initial matches were played in Dagshai. It was basically initiated, as a recreation for British troops stationed in India. The Durand Cup was twice suspended, during the two world wars. In 1940 the venue was shifted to New Delhi.
  • Indian Super Cup: The Indian Super Cup is a one-off annual Indian club association football match contested between the I-League champions and the Federation Cup winners. If the I-League champions also won the Federation Cup then the league runners-up provide the opposition. The winners of the game receive the Shield as a trophy for the year, while players also receive individual winners medals.
  • Santosh Trophy: Santosh Trophy is an annual Indian football tournament which is contested by states and government institutions. The first winners were Bengal, who also lead the all-time winners list with 31 titles till date.
Competition Who Qualifies Notes
AFC Cup Champions of the I-League and Federation Cup Group stage

National team

The [9] lack of practice time, team selection issues, their refusal to not play barefoot and valuing Olympics over FIFA World cup.[14] They won gold medals at two Asian Games, and held the record for the best performance by an Asian football team at the Olympics.

There are also a number of other national teams from the Under-23 team to the Under-15 team, the under-23's is considered to be a feeder team for the national team.


The game in India is administered by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), which is affiliated with the regional Asian Football Confederation, as well as with the worldwide body FIFA. The Indian national team has entered into the regional Asian Cup but has never competed in any World Cup. The Indian women's national team has also played in various competitions; moreover, women's football has its own separate inter-state and state competitions. Youth football is administered by the governmental Sports Authority of India.

The standard of Indian football (compared globally) is poor. According to FIFA rankings, the national team is ranked 165th place in the world as of April 2011, and is said to struggle to qualify for both the World Cup and the Asian Cup. Part of this has been put down to the lack of opportunities for proper training and development of players in the country.

Women's football

Women's football has not had the relative head start over the rest of the world that the men's game has had, and also has not had the chance to spread through the country like its male counterpart. The game was administerd by the Women's Football Federation of India (WFFI) from 1975 until the early 1990s when they were absorbed into the AIFF. However, there are complaints that women's football is treated as a poor relation to the men's game leading to (unfulfilled) plans to de-merge the WFFI.[15]

The women's game, like the men's game, also has its early pioneers in the state of West Bengal. The large Kolkata teams, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, started women's club sides in the 2000–01 season, and they participate with other teams in the Calcutta Women's Football League. However, it has been seen recently that players from Odisha and Manipur have made advances in the game. Players from these two states make up a large part of the India women's national football team.

The main women's national competition is played on a state vs. state basis in the India women's football championship.[16] There are also similar national championships for junior teams like the Junior Girls National Championship (for under 19s) and the Under-17 Girls National Championship.

Some female players have become internationally recognised. Among them are Chitra Gangadharan who was selected to play for the All Asian Star team. Jaanki Kotecha was selected as captain to the All Asian Star Team in 2008–2009, where she led her team to victory. In February 2000, Sujata Kar and Alpana Sil became the first Indian footballers to sign a contract outside India. They signed with the German team TSV Crailsheim, but had to return after a month due to problems with the clearance of their international transfer.

Until 1983, women's football took part in international tournaments like the AFC Women's Asian Cup. For example the team won silver in 1980 at Calicut. In later years it had become poor in status just like its male counterpart. During the 2003 AFC Women's Championship, the Indian team were embarrassed by a 12–0 defeat to China.[17]

The poor support of the national team by the AIFF became evident, when the team's trip to Germany was only made possible by Non Resident Indians in the country, and by the support of the German Football Association. Furthermore, championships are held in remote locations, and national media coverage is said to be restricted to state and local newspapers.[15]

The women's game reached a new low in June 2009 when FIFA delisted the side from its world rankings for being out of action for more than 18 months. This comes at a time when the game was gaining in popularity amongst the younger generation as evident by the local leagues conducted around the country. The recently concluded Mumbai Women's Football League 2009–10 organised by the MDFA (Mumbai District Football Association) was a major success and featured many talented players who had played for the national team. Furthermore the popularity of the event gave hope that the women's game could rise in India.[18]

Stadiums in India

There are many football stadiums in India, however only a few of these stadiums are of World Standards. These are namely the largest stadium in India, the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata with a capacity of 120,000, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi with a capacity of over 60,000 and the Ambedkar Stadium with a capacity of 20,000 (but is known to have had crowds of 35,000 in the 2009 Nehru Cup). Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, with seating capacity of over 45,000 and Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, with seating capacity approximately 55,000 are two major arenas for football events in Odisha. In Sikkim, the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok which seats over 25,000 is famous as one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world as it is situated in the backdrop of Himalayas. In Shillong the main stadium is the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with a capacity of 25,000 standing. Both the Paljor and the JLN in Shillong have been renovated and now have artificial playing surfaces. Some other stadiums important stadiums are the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, the Barasat Stadium in Barasat, the Fatorda Stadium in Goa, the Kaloor International Stadium in Kochi, Municipal Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Guwahati. Apart from the above-mentioned stadiums, there are hundreds of more stadiums in the country. However, with India likely to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup there is definitely going to be massive renovation of said stadiums around the country.

Major events

Competition Year Winner India Finished venue
AFC U-19 Championship 2006 AFC Youth Championship  North Korea Group stage 4 (in 2 cities)
FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup TBA TBA TBA


The I-League is currently broadcast by TEN Sports in India and will do until the 2014-15 season.

Seasons in Indian football

The following articles detail the major results and events in each season since 2011.

2010s: 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20

See also


  1. ^ a b Sharma, Mukesh (2010-07-11). "BBC Sport — Football — World Cup 2010: India's football absence examined". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  2. ^ a b Wilson, Bill (2012-04-10). "BBC News — Football looks to score in India". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  3. ^ Kannan, Shilpa (2011-09-01). "BBC News — Messi boost as Indian football challenges cricket". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  4. ^ "BBC News — Can India ever learn to love football?". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  5. ^ Chapman, Caroline (2013-10-04). "BBC Sport — Darryl Duffy: From Football League to India's Premier League". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  6. ^ "The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking — Ranking Table". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  7. ^ "2013: U-17 WC host rights only high point for Indian football". The Hindu. 2013-12-27. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Soutik Biswas's India: Why is India not at the World Cup?". BBC. 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  9. ^ a b c "Fit to Post: Yahoo! India News » Blog Archive Barefoot in Bengal and Other Stories «". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  10. ^ Lisi (2007), p. 49
  11. ^ "1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil – Overview".  
  12. ^ Arunava Chaudhuri. "The Indian National Team's World Cup qualifying". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  13. ^ "India upstage Syria 1–0 to lift Nehru Cup". Reuters. 2007-08-29. 
  14. ^ "Barefoot in Bengal and Other Stories". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  15. ^ a b Autor. "Gender and sport in India: aspects of women's football by Arunava Chaudhuri (english)". Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  16. ^ "The Official Website Of All India Football Federation". 2005-02-04. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  17. ^ "Sound planning needed". Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  18. ^ "Women's Home". Football Mumbai. 2009-06-27. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 

External links

  • BBC Sport – "What's holding back Indian football?"
  • "Gender and sport in India: aspects of women's football"
  • "Indian Football Association over the ages" (Video)
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