India regularly qualified for the football event at the Olympics between 1948 and 1960
The Indian national football team first qualified for the Olympics in 1948 and have played in four Olympics in total. However, since the 1960 Rome Olympics, an Indian side have never managed to enter the competition.
The four instances India played in the Olympics was in 1948 (London), 1952 (Helsinki), 1956 (Melbourne) and 1960 (Rome) with the Melbourne sojourn being its best outing.
How did Indian football team perform at the 1948 London Olympics?
Less than a year since gaining Independence from the British rule, on July 31, 1948, India made its Olympic debut against France at the Lynn Road Stadium in East London following an automatic qualification for the London Games. Captained by Dr. Talimeren Ao, a home physician from Nagaland, and coached by Balaidas Chatterjee, this was India’s first international match post-Independence.
After France broke the deadlock with René Courbin finding the target, Sarangapani Raman scored Independent India’s first ever international goal in the 70th minute. However, Sailen Manna and Mahabir Prasad failed to convert each of their penalties before Rene Persillon’s 89th minute winner meant India had to pack their bags, given the knock-out nature of the competition.
India played the game barefoot and what was interesting to recall is the words captain Ao said after the tie – “Well, you see, we play football in India whereas you play bootball.”
How did Indian football team perform at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics?
Mohun Bagan legend Sailen Manna was the captain of the team as India returned for the Games held in Helsinki. Yet again, the opening game was the only appearance for the team as they were defeated 10-1 by eventual silver medalists Yugoslavia. India’s only goal was scored by Ahmed Khan in the 89th minute.
The Yugoslavian side had several players who had played in the World Cup. Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas who scored a goal in each half. Rajko Mitić and Tihomir “Bata” Ognjanov also bagged a brace each while Branislav “Branko” Zebec completed a hat-trick and added another in the tie.
How did Indian football team perform at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics?
The 1956 Melbourne Games will remain as the one that will be most talked about as the Indian football team attained a fourth place finish.
Fortunate in a way to get a walkover in the first match that was to be against who would go on to be the most successful team in football at the summer Olympic games, Hungary – a team that consisted of the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis but had to withdraw from the tournament due to the Hungarian Revolution back home, India were up against hosts Australia in the quarter-finals.
Coached by Syed Abdul Rahim, another Bagan legend Samar Banerjee led India to their first ever victory at the Games. Inspired by a youthful PK Banerjee on the wings, the young and prolific Neville D’Souza went on the score the first hat-trick for an Asian in the Olympics while Kishan Kittu completed the tally in the 4-2 win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
India were up against Yugoslavia next in the semifinals. But Rahim’s men were handed a 4-1 defeat where, interestingly, Neville D’Souza had given India the lead in the 52nd minute after a goalless first half. After losing the semi-finals, India battled for the bronze medal against Bulgaria but lost 3-0 to finish fourth instead.
With four goals, however, India’s Neville D’Souza still finished joint highest goalscorer in the tournament with Yugoslavia’s Todor Veselinović and Dimitar Milanov of Bulgaria. It was also the first time an Asian team finished in the top four at the Olympics.
How did Indian football team perform at the 1960 Rome Olympics?
The 1960 Games in Rome would mark India’s last appearance in the Olympics as they failed to qualify for the tournament ever since. A few changes in the format were also introduced in this edition.
It was the first time that a group system was introduced in the Games as India, this time captained by PK Banerjee were in the same group as Hungary, France and Peru.
In the opening game, India might have lost 2-1 but not without staging a fight back. János Göröcs and Flórián Albert had given the Hungarians a two-goal cushion before Tulsidas Balram pulled one back in the 79th minute to keep the game interesting but India were not able to find the back of the net another time in the match.
Against France, India almost recorded their second win at the Olympics when PK Banerjee put his side ahead in the 71st minute. However, it was not to happen as Gérard Coinçon’s late equaliser saved the Les Blues’ blushes but it was a historic result for India none-the-less.
Tulsidas Balram was on target once again in the final group stage match against Peru but India ended on the losing side of a 3-1 result to crash out of the tournament India are yet to make a return to.
Why is Indian football team not particpating in Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
Failing to make it out of the group stage of the 2020 AFC U-23 Championships, which has been the route for Asian teams to the Games since the 2016 Rio Finals, the Indian football team will not be participating in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo that are set to begin from July 21, 2021.
India finished third in Group F that consisted of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, although Pakistan withdrew. India lost against both Uzbekistan (3-0) and Tajikistan (2-0) in the single-leg group games.
In addition to host nation Japan, 2020 AFC U-23 Championship winners, South Korea, runners-up, Saudi Arabia, and the team who finshed third, Australia, made the cut among the Asian representatives at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.