With the launch of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there has been a renewed interest in a particular black-and-white photo of the Indian men’s football team. The photo that shows the Indian squad approaching the field barefoot for a match against France in the 1948 London Olympics is getting widely circulated.
On Sunday, this historic photo was shared online by the popular Twitter page named indianhistorypics (@IndiaHistorypic). The picture was simply captioned, “1948 :: Indian Football Team Arriving In Ground Without Shoes to Play Against France”.
This iconic photo is often followed by social media claims that the players were barefoot because they were too broke to afford shoes themselves and had frugal government sponsorship. These allegations often put the blame of India’s loss to France (by 1-2) on the lack of sports gear. However, these allegations are untrue.
In a detailed debriefer about ‘Indian football at the Olympics’, published on the official website of the Olympics, it is mentioned that during the above-mentioned match held on July 31, 1948, eight out of 11 team members of the Indian team voluntarily played without shoes.
1948 :: Indian Football Team Arriving In Ground Without Shoes to Play Against France pic.twitter.com/O0ZqqUscwm
— indianhistorypics (@IndiaHistorypic) November 20, 2022
This was the decision of player to go without shoes as they were more comfortable.
You can read more about that entire event and why they preferred to go without shoeshttps://t.co/x55LNBifsH pic.twitter.com/4ghwEY0jxn
— Indian Political Report (@IPR_IND) November 20, 2022
Not team; just some players chose to play barefoot as they were more comfortable playing barefoot. It wasn’t like players didn’t have boots, as you can see at least one on the right in boots. Despite all that, India lost the match only narrowly, 2-1. Today, we don’t even qualify.
— The Real Assassin (@DrAssassinator) November 21, 2022
Actually Indian team declined to wear footwear as they are more comfortable without them.
— Chitra (@chitranngada) November 20, 2022
Shows how much the then leaders cared for the players of our own country..
This is not a nostalgia, this is an outright insult to the players, an insult directed by the then politicians..
This shows they cared less for the image of our country..
— Ravi 🇮🇳🌈 (@rkthealpha) November 20, 2022
The blog reports that Talimeren Ao, the captain of the Indian team, was widely quoted as saying, “Well, you see, we play football in India, whereas you play bootball!” when he asked about his team’s barefoot participation. It is widely believed that eight players, many of whom had worn protective ankle straps, preferred playing without the shoes on the wet and slippery ground of East London’s Cricklefield Stadium.
On this day, 73 years ago, the #BlueTigers 🐯 played their first International match as citizens of an independent India 🇮🇳, when they took on France 🇫🇷, narrowly losing the match 1-2, at the 1948 London @Olympics 🙌#Olympics #BackTheBlue #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/wZ1OxsAcXD
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) July 31, 2021
As per an article published in Scroll.in by Jaydeep Basu, the author of 2003 book Stories from Indian Football, up until 1953, many international tournaments like FIFA did not have any regulations about wearing shoes during matches.