Football (soccer) is one of the most popular sports in India. The game is played extensively in the country, with the maximum fan following in Goa, Kerala, West Bengal, Mizoram, Manipur and Sikkim. In the rest of the states, it is next to cricket in terms of popularity. All the international league matches and the soccer World Cup are keenly watched by the sports enthusiasts in the sub continent. The game holds a rich tradition in India, its history being something that deserves special mention. Go through the following lines to get information on the history of football in India.
Football Game In India
The history of football in India can be traced back to the pre-independent period, when the British people brought the game to the sub-continent. The initial football matches were played between army teams. A number of football clubs in India were soon created, during the British Empire. In fact, these clubs pre-date the most renowned clubs and organizations of football, such as FIFA. In India, the first football game was organized between 'Calcutta Club of Civilians' and the 'Gentlemen of Barrackpore', in 1854. The first football club of India, named 'Calcutta FC', was founded in 1872. Dalhousie Club, Traders Club and Naval Volunteers Club were also established in the following years.
The First Tournament
Calcutta (the present day Kolkata) is considered the home of football in India. This is probably the reason why a number of football clubs originated from the state, including Mohun Bagan Athletic Club (later named as the National Club of India), which came into existence in 1889. After a few years, the Indian Football Association (IFA) came into existence in 1893. In 1898, the oldest football tournament in India, (the third oldest in the world) was commenced in Shimla. Referred to as the Durand Cup, the tournament was named after the then Foreign Secretary of India - Sir Mortimer Durand, who inaugurated it.
The First Victory
The first victory of Indian footballers was registered in 1911, when Mohun Bagan Club won the IFA-Shield Trophy. This victory has secured a special place in the history of football in India, because the trophy was previously won by the British teams based in India. Subsequently, the number of football clubs in India increases, which led to the formation of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in 1937. In 1948, the AIFF was affiliated to FIFA, the international governing body for football. In 1954, AIFF became one of the founder members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The period stretching from 1951 to 1962 deserves special mention, because it is the golden era in the history of Indian football. As the Indian football clubs put up commendable performances year after year, they qualified for a number of international competitions and competed overseas. The Indian footballers brought laurels to the homeland, by winning gold medals in the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games held at New Delhi and Jakarta, respectively. India registered another record in 1956, when she became the first Asian nation to make it to the Olympic football semi-finals in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
The Indian football teams have performed reasonably well in the recent years, though the sport at the domestic level still needs upliftment. Some of the great performances have been witness at the Nehru Cup, held in August 2007 and the AFC Challenge Cup held in August 2008, both of being won by the Indian football team. The national football team has qualified for 2011 Asian Cup, to be held in Qatar. Although the Indian football clubs have delivered consistent performances in the near past, the Indian football still team needs to mark its presence at the important international tournaments.
Women's Football In India
Women's football in India was administered by the Women's Football Federation of India (WFFI) until early 1990s, when the AIFF took over the administration of women's soccer in the country. Just like the men's game, the women's game had its early pioneers from the state of West Bengal. The women's clubs were started by East Bengal and Mohun Bagan clubs in 2000-01 season. National championships for both senior and junior girls are also held. The majority of players in the Indian women's national football team are from Manipur and West Bengal. However, women's football in India has not gained as much popularity as the men's teams have.