Indian Football ,Part I- The Golden Age during Pre-Independence

With a population of 1.3 billion people the equivalent of 3,900 Iceland's or 390 Uruguay's India remains the largest population in the world to have never appeared in the FIFA World Cup this would seem an unlikely outcome but a brief look at Indian football's history and current league structure can help answer this question

India's football story starts pre-independence when football clubs and tournaments instituted by British regimes became some of the first in the World Calcutta FC became the first football club to be established in 1872 while Mohan Bagan AC the oldest existing club in Asia was formed in 1889 the G R and club and IFA shield first held in 1888 and 1893 respectively are two of the oldest football Cup competitions in the world in 1911

Mohan began became the first all Indian football team to win the IFA shield beating East Yorkshire Regiment 2-1 in the final in what was a landmark moment in Indian sport in 1937 the All India Football Federation was formed to administer football affairs in India and was affiliated with FIFA in 1947 the year India became independent the Indian team qualified by default for the World Cup in Brazil 1950 owing to pull outs by other Asian teams urban legend has it that the Indian team was not allowed to participate in the tournament due to the fact that they played there footed the reason is now understood to be that at the time the World Cup wasn't considered as important as other events such as the Olympics the period from 1951 to 1962 is commonly referred to as India's golden years in football as they competed for and won various titles two Asian Games gold medals in 1951 and 62 sandwiched a fourth place finish in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and victories in various other tournaments in the 1960 Olympics in Rome the now booted Indian team held France to a draw and gave a scare to the much vaunted Hungarian team before bowing out in the group stages Indian football has underperformed ever since failing to keep in sync with the tactical and physical progress made by the rest of the world the rise of cricket as India's primary sport loss of mass interest in football and decades of neglect saw India's globe standing in football plummet to its nadir in the years to follow the

National Football League India's first semi-professional National League was established as late as 1996 with football until then largely played within state leagues and among government institutions the NFL failed to have that desired impact and was affected by infrastructure issues an apathetic Federation and unprofessionalism within clubs a decade of further stagnation resulted in the introduction of a rebranded national league named the I League in 2007 a second division was established with a promotion and relegation structure between the league's the winner of the i-league would get a place at the AFC Champions League qualifying rounds however despite finding a broadcast partner in zee sports and a leaked sponsor in ONGC the league was unable to capture the national imagination with only certain pockets of the country maintaining stadium attendances and viewership Mohan began and east Bengals famous Kolkata derbies regularly drew crowds in excess of 60,000 but the other clubs found that going much tougher the issues related to unprofessional clubs and infrastructure remained with players not getting paid clubs suffering losses and some even shutting down altogether in October 2010 the AIFF announced a premature termination of its ten-year broadcast deal with the zee network in December 2010 the AIFF signed a landmark 100 million pounds deal with IMG reliance giving them exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship and advertising broadcasting merchandising video franchising and the right to create a new Football League for a period of 15 years IMG and Reliance Industries had previously entered a joint venture agreement to develop an own sports and media properties in India

Reliance Industries is led by its chairperson and MD Mukesh Ambani the richest Indian and among the top 20 wealthiest people in the world IMG are had a clear plan to build a new National League of professional City based franchises allow the Indian Premier League in cricket the primary stakeholders in the league would be football sports development Limited helmed by Nita Ambani Mukesh Ambani's wife and star network who would also be the broadcast partners a closed league system based purely on expansion meant that there was to be no promotion or relegation system for a period of 10 years from the inception of the league a home-and-away League was to be followed by a two-legged semi-finals I off between the top four teams followed by a final at a neutral venue the new league was to be given the status of an official tournament by FIFA it will be called the Indian Super League

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