India Sports

Arjuna Awardees in Football

The game of football in India is one and half centuries old in fact. It was introduced by British soldiers in around 1850, but the game became popular, when Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhichary a prominent Bengali gentleman established a football club in Kolkata, the erstwhile Indian capital in Victorian era. By the end of 19th century, Kolkata became the capital of Indian football as well and several football clubs mushroomed in the city such as Mohun Bagan, Aryan Club, Calcutta F C and Sovabazar.

Several interstate tournaments such as Cooch Behar Cup, Trades Cup and Gladstone Cup also came into existence by the turn of the century. The two oldest football tournaments in the world Durand Cup and IFA Shield can also be traced back to late 19th century. Football was a popular sport of the military teams, but it became popular in the rest of the country, thanks to the contribution of numerous football clubs. Soon, the native Indian teams started to make their mark in this new sport and Sovabazar Club was able to win the famous Trades Cup in 1892.

Mohun Bagan is a leading football club of modern India. Interestingly, it was also established around the same time in West Bengal. In the beginning of 20th century, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club emerged as a leading club and it won the prestigious IFA Shield in 1911. Till that time IFA Shield was considered to be the monopoly of the English teams. In the final of the competition, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club defeated the British Army team Eastern Yokshire Regiment. This astonishing victory created a mass hysteria in India. Though the Indian Football Association (IFA) was formed in Calcutta in as early as 1893, but the first Indian team could join the association only in 1930.

Indian team used to play football barefooted until 1948 Olympics, when FIFA banned barefoot play. After this ban was imposed, India could never repeat the success it achieved playing barefoot. Indian team has two gold medals to its credit in the Asian games in 1951 and 1962 respectively. In the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, India ranked at fourth place in football. This is referred to as the "golden phase" of Indian football and the proficient coach of Indian football team during this time was Syed Abdul Rahim. Besides it, Indian football team has also got the victories in Merdeka Cup and Quadrangular Tournament.

After the unexpected demise of Coach Mr. Abdul Rahim in the early 60s, Indian football took a nosedive and could never recover. Indian football went into a dark age after their bronze medal victory in Asian Games in 1970. It was revived only in 2007 after four decades of poor performance, when it clinched Nehru Cup defeating Syria. India repeated its Nehru Cup victory in 2009 defeating the same opponent, Syria. All India Football Federation is striving very hard to revive the game of football in India, ever since their excellent performances at Nehru Cup and AFC Challenge Cup.

India is currently running under league system, which commenced after the establishment of the National Football League in 1996. According to a survey, All India Football Federation has more than 6,500 clubs registered with it in India. The prominent footballs tournaments in India are the Federation Cup, Durand Cup, Indian Super Cup, Santosh Trophy and IFA Shield. But at present, the state of Indian football is very bad. Nowadays, the national team of India struggles to even qualify for the World Cup, the Olympics and the Asian Cup. The reason behind it, according to the authorities is lack of popularity of football in India, lack of opportunities and no proper arrangement of training and development of the players.

Arjuna awardees in football are as follows:

YearNames of Arjuna Award Recipients
1961P K Banerjee
1962T Balaram
1963C Goswami
1964J Singh
1965A L Ghosh
1966Yusuf Khan
1967Peter Thangaraj
1969I Singh
1970S Naeemuddin
1971C P Singh
1973 M Singh
1978-79G S Gill
1979-80P Banerjee
1980-81Mohammed Habib
1981S Karmakar
1983S Mullick
1989S Bhattacharjee
1997B Sankhwalkar
1998Baichung Bhutia
2002Bruno Coutinho
2003I. M. Vijayan
2010D K Mondal
2011Sunil Chettri

Last Updated on: June 24, 2019