Indian football’s first major glory tracks back almost a 100 years from now when Kolkata’s Mohun Bagan had defeated a British side East Yorkshire Regiment in 1911 to lift the prestigious IFA Shield for the first time. Just after India’s independence, the Indian football team was invited to play in the FIFA World Cup in 1950 held in Brazil. Due to several unfortunate causes the Indian team did not respond to the invitation and thus missed out a golden opportunity to participate in the biggest sporting event of the world.
Till 1962, India were one of the strongest teams in the continent and were considered to be an upcoming force in the footballing world. Unfortunately, the untimely demise of India’s greatest ever coach Syed Abdul Rahim stagnated India’s progress and since then the standards have just declined.
The era under Rahim is considered to be the ‘Golden-age’ for Indian football as he led India to the semi-final of the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. In the process, India became the first Asian country to achieve this feat. The team also won Asian Games in 1951 and also in 1962 under Rahim’s guidance.
We currently stand 141st in the FIFA rankings and are nowhere close to even make it to the continental level tournaments also.
Among the recent glories in Indian club football, East Bengal had won the ASEAN Cup held in Indonesia in 2003 defeating the then AFC Champions League runner-up side Bec Tero Sasana of Thailand. Also Dempo SC and East Bengal have reached the semi-finals of AFC Cup in the last decade.