English, Fake News

Indian football team members played the 1948 Olympic match barefoot out of habit, not because of lack of shoes


Following the FIFA’s recent ban on All India Foodball Federation, a Facebook post is being widely shared claiming that Nehru Government was responsible for the Indian Football’s present situation as he was unable to provide even shoes for the team at 1948 London Olympics. Let’s fact-check the claim made in the post.

Claim: Indian football team had to play the 1948 Olympics match with France on barefoot as the Nehru Government couldn’t provide shoes for the team.

Fact: Majority of the Indian football team members played the 1948 Olympic match barefoot as they were not used to playing with shoes.  The shoes given by the AIFF were not usually used by the members of the Indian team except in wet and slippery conditions. This is the reason because of which in the 1948 London Olympics match, only a few played in shoes. Also, France won against India in that match 2-1. The captain of the team was Talimeran Aao, not Shailendra Nath Manna. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.

We performed reverse image search of the viral photo, and found it on ‘Sportskeeda’ website and ‘Getty Images’ Website. According to them, the photo was taken when Indian Players were walking out at Ilford for their match against France in 1948 London Olympics and majority of them were bootless.

Taking cue from this, we searched further and found a relevant article on The Hindu’s ‘Sport star’ website. According to this article, “Being largely unused to playing in them, the (Indian) players kept the boots supplied by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for occasions when the wet and slippery English conditions left them with no alternative but to wear them”. Also, as claimed in the post, we found a photo of Nehru coming out of plane with his dog on ‘Times content’ website. The description of the photo says, “Prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with his Pet Dog ‘Pepi’ at the Palam airport in New Delhi destined for Kulu-Manali on January 1, 1961”

Did the Indian football team have shoes at the 1948 Olympics?

BBC’s 1948 Olympics handbook shows that football matches in the 1948 Olympics were held in a knockout manner. In the official 1948 Olympics report, it can be seen that the Indian football team was out of the Olympics after losing to France in the very first match they played.

In the 1948 Olympics report, it  can be read that nine members of the Indian team played in the India-France match without wearing shoes.

It can be read on the ‘Sportstar’  website that the Indian team was not in the habit of playing in shoes and that the shoes given by the AIFF are not usually used by the Members of the Indian team except in wet and slippery conditions. The photos of a few Indian players wearing shoes at the India-France match can be seen here, here, and here

In the book  ‘Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India’,  it  can be read that Indian players had a habit of playing without shoes, and that playing so contributed to their skill,  and until about 1952, players played in international tournaments without shoes. It can be seen on the AIFF website that shoes were made mandatory in domestic competitions in 1954.

Here, here, and here, one can see Indian players playing without shoes even in practice during 1948. On playing without shoes, 1948 Indian football captain Talimeren told the media, “In India, we play football, whereas you play bootball!”, the Olympic channel website reported.

Also, as claimed in the post, Shailendra Nath Manna was not the captain in this match. Talimeran Aao was the captain.

Was India banned in 1950 FIFA world cup because they were playing barefoot?

We searched the internet with relevant keywords and found related articles Los Angeles Times and Scroll. According to these articles, AIFF just did not take the World Cup seriously, considering the Olympics to be the ultimate goal, is backed up by Sailen Manna, who would have been the captain of the team. As he told Sports Illustrated, ‘We had no idea about the World Cup then. [H]ad we been better informed, we would have taken the initiative ourselves. For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger.’ 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.’

To sum it up, Indian football team was provided shoes during 1948 London Olympics, but out of habit, majority of players played barefoot. Also, India was not banned in 1950 FIFA world cup for playing barefoot.


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