|The Indian National team leaving for a tournament back in the day|
A few days ago I watched on TV as millions of Indians went into wild
celebrations during the ongoing FIFA under 17 World Cup.
A certain Jeakson Singh was said to have scored India’s first-ever goal in
a FIFA World Cup as they lost 2-1 to Colombia.
What got me wondering was how the Indians fooled the whole world that
they had never before scored in the World Cup because some of us know
Legend has it that the Indians were banned from participating in football
first and then sports generally because of their uncanny ability to “over-
win” games and other sporting events.
How the whole world thinks the Indians just scored their first goal baffles
me. Like we say in local parlance here in Nigeria, these same Indians
must have used jazz (Voodoo) to cover the eyes of the world.
So why then was India banned?
The legend continues that the Indians were banned by FIFA forever from
playing football because they used voodoo to win games.
Nigeria was their major victim as a World Cup match between both
countries ended 99-1 in favour of India. However, no one knows the year
this game was played or where it happened, just the legend.
The way I heard it was that the Indians scored with every shot on target
because first, the Nigerians could not see the Indian players on the pitch
and when they shot, the ball either multiplied into seven with the
Nigerian keeper going for the one he thought was the real one, catching
air, while they scored.
At other times, the ball metamorphosed into a fiery blast and the keeper
had to run for cover to save from being burnt.
|The Indian who probably scored 89 of the 99 goals. No boots|
Yet again, the Indians were not done as the ball also on some occasions
turned into a scary lion as it made its way into the post, causing the
Nigerian goalkeeper to run for his life.
By the time they were done, they had scored 99 goals with Nigeria
pulling one back, phew! At least we got the away goal, didn’t we? Lol.
No need to check as you won’t see this game on this game on the FIFA
website or any other archives because the result was expunged from
world football records after the Indians were banned.
After they were banned from football by FIFA, they participated in the
Olympic Games, and an Indian athlete, Javrashin Anand threw a javelin
that has not landed until this day.
We hear it is still somewhere in orbit, terrorizing other planets as I type.
This was in 1960 in Rome and they were henceforth banned from taking
part in any sporting activity until they sign an undertaken by their Prime
Minister never to use voodoo to enhance performance in sporting
In that same 1960 Olympic Games hosted in Rome, a poor shot-put
throw by an Indian athlete landed at the airport in Rome destroying part
of the runway.
Since that was their third-best shot put thrower, the organisers refused
to let the others throw the shot put lest they kill a child in school in
some faraway village.
The pole vaulter, Vikram Bachan was said to have landed outside the
stadium after his vault and many more uncanny things the Indian
athletes did at the games
What’s the story around the legendary World Cup game between
Nigeria and India?
If you grew up in Nigeria between 1970 and 2010 you probably heard
a version of the Nigeria v India World Cup game that led to the Asian nation being banned from playing football by FIFA, but what version did
I caught up with folk from different generations to share their own
version of the story.
India was a big myth when I was growing up. I heard India beat Nigeria
99-1. Anytime the Indians played the ball it turned into a lion and the
Nigerian goalkeeper ran out of the post and they just kept scoring. We
got a last-minute penalty which Thunder Balogun took. As he was about
to take it, some Nigerian from the stands shouted at him to remember
his left leg and as soon as he scored, Thunder Balogun died.
Growing up, I realised it was a lie. Whoever concocted it took us for a
ride and I hope our children never get to hear it. Maybe, it was even a
cricket game. You can score 99 innings in cricket, certainly not 99 goals
in a football match.
Hopefully, when we play the Indians in a real football match we will win.
Nduka Orjimno (BBC Pidgin service)
Well, the one I heard growing up in the early 90s. I heard Nigeria and
India played a match, though the year was never stated and the
competition no one knew. Was it a World Cup Qualifier? Certainly not. A
friendly match? Maybe. But it ended 100-1.
The tale was that whenever the Indians approached with the ball, it
metamorphosed into a lion and the Nigerian goalkeeper ran off and that
is how they scored a hundred goals
Now the only way Nigeria was able to score in that game was when Sam
Okwaraji took off his boots, began to play barefoot and then scored. That
is how I heard my own story.
I heard different stories about the Indian prowess in football, but I think
the one that sticks out is the one that had two Indians teams playing.
One team loved to run and play in the air and the other on the ground.
When the team that loved to play in the air got the ball, they kept on
passing it in the air, their legs not even touching the ground until the ball
dropped in their opponents’ post.
They went on scoring a hundred goals playing barefoot. My own version
had nothing to do with Nigeria though.
Calvin Onwuka (CEO, www.ACLSports.com)
I did not hear that Nigeria lost 100-1 to India. I heard that we played
against them but that when the Indians had the ball our players could
not see them.
Our keeper also did not see the balls coming to him. Unfortunately, my
version did not come with a scoreline.
Moseph Ekine (CEO www.naijafootballplus.com)
Ekine Moseph is in India to watch the under 17 World Cup and says that
this was the first question he asked as soon as he got to Delhi.
All the Indians laughed and said they’d never heard of a football match
played against Nigeria.
I heard while growing up that we lost 99-1 to India. Sam Okwaraji scored
and lost his life in the process.
Did FIFA really ban India from playing football?
Yes, the Indians were actually banned by FIFA and maybe that is how the
Nigerian myth started, who knows?
Now following the story of the legend, the Indians qualified for the 1950
World Cup to be hosted byBrazil but loved to play barefoot.
They’d just tie bandages around their feet with the black magic and
voodoo stuff inside it and whack teams 70 and 80 nil with reckless
FIFA sensing that it would ruin the World Cup ordered that all players
must play with boots but the Indians refused and were henceforth
banned from playing and have not played until the current under 17
Do you believe this? That is he legend of the Indians and maybe, that
was how the 99-1 story started.
What is the truth about it?
Did FIFA really ban the Indians? Yes, they did. But was it because of their
refusal to wear boots? Certainly not.
According to www.latimesblogs.latimes.com, India surprised the world
with their performance in 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England.
The Indian national football team, with every player playing without
footwear (some players played in socks, while most played barefoot), lost
to France in the first round by the razor-thin margin of 2-1 (and actually
were tied with France at 1 all 70 minutes into the match). This match
already drew a great deal of attention as the 1948 Summer Olympics was
the first time that India was performing in an international tournament as
an independent nation (after gaining their independence from Great
Britain). However, the fact that the Indian team did all of this in
bare feet drew the most attention.
|The Indians loved to play bare foot|
FIFA made it clear to India that they would not be allowed to play in the
1950 FIFA World Cup without footwear. Then a curious thing happened.
You see, when determining the make-up of the 1950 World Cup, FIFA
determined that obviously the two defending finalists, Brazil and Italy,
would be guaranteed spots. That left fourteen spots that needed to be
FIFA decided that seven of those spots would come from Europe, six
would come from the Americas and one would come from Asia. The
problem was that of the four Asian teams that were invited to the
World Cup, three of them (the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma)
withdrew from the tournament before the qualification round.
Therefore, India earned an automatic spot within the World Cup. It
would be India’s first time appearing in the World Cup (and, indeed,
as of 2011 they still have never appeared in the World Cup), but
India, too, withdrew from the tournament.
For years, the story has been that India withdrew from the World Cup
because FIFA would not allow them to compete barefoot.
First of all, the World Cup in 1950 was being held in Brazil. In 1950, it
was not a simple matter to travel from, say, Burma, to Brazil. In fact, the
team from Turkey withdrew because of financial concerns over traveling
to Brazil. So teams withdrawing from the World Cup over financial
reasons would be quite reasonable. In fact, that is an alternate theory
that has arisen over the years – that India withdrew because they could
not afford the trip. This appears to be false, as the organizers offered
to pay most of the travel expense to get India to Brazil (as if India
did not come, they would not have a representative from Asia, which
is exactly what happened – the tournament ended up playing with 14
teams instead of 16, with one group having just two teams in it).
|One version said Sam Okwaraji scored for Nigeria|
According to India’s Sports Illustrated magazine, the All India Football
Federation (AIFF) announced that the team would not attend the World
Cup, citing “disagreements over team selection, and insufficient practice
time.” However, as Kaushik Bandyopadhyay, associate editor of
the journal Soccer and Society put it Sports Illustrated:
A careful study reveals that beneath the apparent financial difficulties
given as cause of withdrawal lay the AIFF’s unusual failure to appreciate
the importance of participating in the Cup, despite assurances from the
organizing committee to bear a major part of the tour expenses.
This general idea, that the AIFF just did not take the World Cup seriously,
considering the Olympics to be the ultimate goal is backed up by Sailen
Manna, who would have been the captain of the team. As he told Sports
Illustrated, “We had no idea about the World Cup then. Had we
been better informed, we would have taken the initiative ourselves.
For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger.”
Nowhere in any of the discussions at the time was the barefoot issue. It
might certainly have been something that would have annoyed the
Indian team, but it did not appear as though it was the main reason for
the team refusing to travel to Brazil. It seems much more likely that the
Indian football officials just did not think that the World Cup was a big
enough of a deal to warrant sending their players halfway across the
world. Again, do note that 3/4 of the Asian teams had already
withdrawn!! Clearly, the World Cup was not some significant draw at
the time if so many of the other Asian countries did not even try to
get into the tournament.
So I am willing to believe Manna and the research of the Indian Sports
Illustrated when they say that bare feet was not the major reason India
did not attend 1950 World Cup. Sadly, though, their decision not to
attend clearly did affect Indian football. Manna reflected sadly that,
“Indian football would have been on a different level had we made that
|Tesilim Thunder Balogun scored for Nigeria too|
The truth is that the Indians, at least in Africa and Nigeria are revered for
their prowess in black magic and this is no doubt due to their movies
imported to Nigeria in the 70s and 80s.
Titles like Nagin, the snake girl, Yeh Vaada Raha, Dharhamveer, Dos
Numbri, Do Amkhen Barah Haath etc showed humans dancing with
snakes and all sorts of magic that only the Indians knew how they
Coupled with the fact that as a kid growing up I saw, and others saw too,
photos of Indian football national team players tying bandages around
their feet and “refusing” to play with boots, it just had to be
that there was something they had put inside the bandages that
wouldn’t fit if they wore regular boots.
And maybe, that was how the whole thing came about and I must say,
that story has lasted more than fifty decades, at least in Nigeria.
So the next time you hear that India beat Nigeria 99-1 and were
subsequently banned from playing football by FIFA, please refer them to
this blog post.
But it is a great story to tell though. One that should not die with our
generation. We must move it from Thunder Balogun scoring for Nigeria to
Sam Okwaraji and maybe Austin Okocha getting that goal leading to his
retirement because the lions chased him in his dreams.
Welcome back to the World Cup, India and maybe, you should have a
real game against Nigeria and see how that one ends.
Maybe, the balls will actually turn into lions and balls of fire for real.