BANGALORE: Football World Cup 1950 in Brasil. Group 3 has Italy, India, Paraguay and Sweden. Result? Well, India withdraw from the tournament reducing the group to just three teams.
Italy were defending the World Cup they won in 1934 and 1938. It was not held in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II. As such, had India been in the fray, they would have been up against the World Cup winners, South American giant-killers Paraguay and Europe’s surprise packet Sweden.
The experience would have been worth it and perhaps Indian football history might have been entirely different. For India had some of the very best footballers. Remember, just a year later, India won the Asian Games football gold with most of the 1948 Olympic Games team still together.
Unfortunately, after the draw was made for the World Cup, Indians decided to pull out. The reasons? Amateurs India laid more emphasis on the 1952 Olympics and since 1948, FIFA had made wearing boots compulsory. The then India captain, late Sailen Manna had often hinted in interviews that the “reasons for the pull out were never made public by the AIFF.”
“There were many issues. But essentially, money was a major factor and that is why we pulled out. Also, we had begun playing with boots two years ago and that was not a problem. We had a very good team and had we played in Brasil, I am sure they would have loved our style as there were some very skillful dribblers and intelligent players in our ranks,” said Ahmed Khan, Bangalore’s legendary ‘snake charmer’ who was in the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games teams.
“In the London Olympics, we were trailing France by a goal but Raman (Sarangapani) scored a wonderful goal and equalised. With just about a minute or so to go, France got the match-winner. This shows that we could match any opponent,” Ahmed Khan pointed out.
“If you see the records, in 1951, the same team went on to win the Asian Games gold medal. So participating in the 1950 World Cup might surely have changed the course of our football history,” added Ahmed Khan, East Bengal’s forward of the last millennium and the only survivor of that great era.
Ahmed, the inside left and thus the No 10 of the team, was the pick of the lot for his mesmerising footballing skills.
Raman, Sahu Mewalal, Basheer, Robi Das and Vajravelu, the Stanley Mathews of Indian football, were all part of that fabulous contingent. Maybe, playing in front of crowds that love a silken touch, Indian footballers would have been noticed. Ahmed Khan was offered a professional contract by Swedish club FC Goteborg. Others also might have had such offers. Just as India pulled out of the World Cup, Ahmed did not take up the offer.
Brasil 1950 was indeed a great opportunity lost. As Brasil 2014 dawns, Indian football has been pushed down the depths of the FIFA ranking ladder of 205 nations. They now languish at No 145. However, by hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup this year, India get to play in the tournament. There is still some hope for football in India.
Indian team in 1948 Olympic Games: K V Varadaraj (Goalkeeper), Taj Mohammed, Salien Manna, Basheer, Talimeran Ao (Captain), Mahabir Prasad Robi Das, R Parab, Sahu Mewalal, Ahmed Khan, S Raman.
Substitutes: Sanjeeva Uchil (Goalkeeper), Anil Nandy, B N Vajravelu, K Dhanraj, Papen, S Nandy, S Kaiser.