Why Didn’t India Play The 1950 FIFA World Cup Despite Qualifying? : Myths vs Facts

Why India didnt play 1950 FIFA world cup despite qualifying

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is in full swing in Qatar. There have been some amazing matches, some big upsets, and few expected results. With so much controversy and ruckus that was around this World Cup before its start, it all seems to have faded away as the tournament has progressed on. 

Another thing to note is the fantastic fan support that has been in all the matches. And do you know which two countries have the most fans at this World Cup? It’s Saudi Arabia and India!

Argentina fans celebrating

The love for football among the Indians is clearly visible with the number of fans that are there to attend the World Cup in Qatar. As much as the Indians enjoy being there, they would’ve wanted the Indian football team to be a part of the tournament.  But right now, it feels like a distant dream doesn’t it?

If we were to trace the last (and the only) time India qualified for the football World Cup, we would have to go back to the year 1950.  But despite qualifying for it, India didn’t actually play in it. Do you know the reason for it? And what if we told you it’s something that you didn’t know?

In this blog, we will be clearing some popular myths, giving you a brief background about Indian football, and telling you the exact reasons why India didn’t play the 1950 FIFA World Cup, despite qualifying. So let’s dive straight into it!

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Breaking Some Myths

Before we go on to the real reason why India didn’t go for the 1950 FIFA World Cup being held in Brazil, let us clear out some popular beliefs which are actually false. 

1. No Football Boots

Many have believed that Indians backed out of the tournament as they were used to playing barefoot, and they could not play in football shoes which was required for joining the tournament. 

But this is just a rumor, and the shoes were not a reason for India not going to Brazil. A few Indians did play in boots, and others also used them in rainy conditions. Every footballer had a pair of football boots. 

Indian football players without football boots

2. Insufficient Practice

When asked the reason for not going to the 1950 World Cup, the AIFF (All India Football Federation), which is the governing body for football in India cited that “disagreements over team selection, and insufficient play time” was the reason why India decided to withdraw from the tournament. 

But it is believed that this was not the actual reason for the withdrawal. India had been playing football regularly and at a high level. 

3. Lack Of Funds

Lastly, it is also believed that India declined the opportunity to go to Brazil as it could not afford the travel costs. But the host nations Brazil themselves offered to sponsor India’s travel costs, but the Indians still refused the offer. 

Brief Background

With the advent of British rule in India, they had incorporated many sports to the Indian culture including football. For example, the British started the Durand cup in India in 1888, which is the oldest cup competition in Asia and the third oldest football cup competition in the world.  

Durand Cup

Indians had been playing football at a high level. They played the 1948 Olympics held in London, and had a close defeat to France by 2-1. India even defeated the Dutch giants Ajax by 5-1 in a friendly match. The world was recognizing Indian football. 

Then came the 1950 World Cup, which had reserved spots for teams continent wise:

  • 14 were from Europe
  • 6 from America (South & North)
  • 1 from Asia

There were four Asian teams which had to compete for the Asian spot: Burma, Indonesia, Philippines and India. The other three teams decided not to travel to Brazil and withdrew from the tournament, which gave India an automatic qualification to the World Cup. 

Real Reason

So then why didn’t India go to the World Cup when they had got an automatic qualification? As per Sailen Manna, the then captain of Indian football team, the AIFF felt that Olympics was more important than the World Cup that time, and they had no idea about the stage of the FIFA World Cup. 

Indian football team of 1950

The Indians were fully focused on doing well in the Olympics, and felt that the 1952 edition of it, which was going to be held in Helsinki (Yugoslavia), was more important than going to Brazil. For the Indians, the Olympics was the biggest stage of all. 

Now that we come to think of it, it seems like a bizarre decision, isn’t it? Considering the Olympics bigger than the FIFA World Cup. But at that time, it wasn’t the case!

The 1952 World Cup was only the fourth ever FIFA World Cup. There were a lot of tensions and complications with the other three World Cups:

  • The 1st World Cup happened in 1930 in Uruguay. At this time, inter-continental travel was very expensive and difficult. This led to very less participation from the European sides. 
  • The 2nd edition of the World Cup happened in 1934 in Italy. But at the time Italy was under the rule of Mussolini due to which that tournament was not a success as several big teams didn’t take part in it. 
  • The 3rd ever FIFA World Cup took place in France and wasn’t a big success either as a lot of big South American teams (except Brazil) had withdrawn from it as it was the World Cup was happening back to back in Europe.

Then from 1938 – 1950, no World Cup happened due to World War II. So it can be seen that at the time of the 1950 World Cup, the tournament was not as big of a deal as it is today, and the Indians felt that the Olympics, which had been consistently taking place since its first ever edition in 1896, was much more important. 

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Looking back in hindsight, was it a bad decision from the Indians and a one that we regret today? Maybe. It is hard to say as at the time, the Olympics was a bigger tournament. But if India had taken part in the World Cup, Indian football could have been at a greater height today. 

Does India have a chance to play the upcoming World Cups? Definitely. Even though India are currently 106th in the FIFA rankings, the new FIFA World Cup format which will have up to 48 teams can pave the way for India.

The decision of not playing in the 1950 FIFA World Cup turned out to be a deciding chapter in the pages of Indian football history. But now, we can only focus on the future and so we must. With proper backing from the government, and love of the fans, we can see India in the World Cup one day. 

So let’s back the Blues!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does FIFA stand for?

FIFA stands for Fédération International de Football Association in French, which translates to International Federation of Association Football in English. 

2. Where did the 1950 FIFA World Cup take place?

The 1950 FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil. 

3. Who won the 1950 FIFA World Cup?

Uruguay were crowned as the 1950 FIFA World Cup champions, after defeating Brazil 2-1 in the finals. 

4. Which nation has won the most number of FIFA World Cups?

Brazil is the most successful nation in FIFA World Cups, with 5 titles to their name.

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