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 better.

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.

why then was India banned?

The legend continues that the
Indians were banned by FIFA for ever 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 activities.

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 run way. 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 far away village.

The pole vaulter, Vikram
Bachan was said to have landed outside the stadium and many more
uncanny things the Indian athletes did at the games

the story around the legendary World Cup game between Nigeria and

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 you hear?

I caught up with folk from
different generations to share their own version of the story.

Adewuyi (Columnist with Goal Nigeria and Guardian)

Lolade Adewuyi

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
Hopefully, when we play the
Indians in a real football match we will win.

Orjimno (BBC Pidgin service)

Nduka Orjinmo
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

Now the only way Nigeria was
able to score in that game was when Sam Okwaraji took off his boots,
began to play bare foot and then scored. That is how I heard my own

Udoh (Kwese Sports)

Colin Udoh

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 bare foot. My own version had nothing to do with
Nigeria though.

Onwuka (CEO,

Calvin Onwuka
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 score line.

Ekine (CEO

Ekine Moseph is in India to
watch the under 17 World Cup and says that 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

Ekine Moseph

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

Now following the story of the
legend, the Indians qualified for the 1950 World Cup to be hosted by
Brazil 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 abandon.

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 tournament.

Do you believe this? That is
the legend of the Indians and maybe, that was how the 99-1 story

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,
India surprised the world with their performance in the 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 filled.
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
withdrew!! 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 the 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,
Numbri etc showed humans dancing with snakes and all sorts of magic
that only the Indians knew how they performed.

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.

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.


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