Did The Indian Football Team Play 1948 Olympics Barefoot Because They Couldn't Afford Boots?
The players had shoes with them, but chose to go barefoot, as they were more used to playing without shoes.
An image showing three Indian football players walking barefoot in the football field during the 1948 London Olympics is being shared with the claim that their loss to France during the Olympics was due to the fact that India could not afford to buy their football players shoes to play with. The post is shared with the aim of taking a dig at the Gandhi-Nehru family, who helmed Indian politics post-Independence.
BOOM found this claim to be false; looking through archives of news reports from the Olympics, along with more recent reports about India's first appearance in the Olympics in 1948, we found that the Indian football players were in fact in possession of shoes to play football. According to these reports, most of the players chose to not wear the footwear, as they were more used to playing barefoot.
The image going viral was also found to be cropped - in the entire image, tweeted by FIFA, we can see another player wearing shoes, who was left out of the viral photo.
A Facebook user shared the image with the following caption, translated from Hindi:
"After seeing and contemplating this picture you will hate the Gandhis... and yes this picture is from when Nehru's clothes and shoes used to come by special plane... This is a picture of the 1948 Olympics which took place in London. Our football team tied the match 1-1 with France. Our players could not win because they did not have shoes. And he played the entire match barefoot. Due to which many players were also hurt by the shoes of the players of the other team. Still the match was level. Shailendra Nath Manna was the captain of this team. He was one of the best players in the world. Why did the government not give shoes because the government did not even have that much money. This was the time when Nehru's clothes used to come dry-cleaned from Paris. And Sahab used to roam in private jet with his dog. The result was that FIFA banned India in the 1950 World Cup because no team could play the match without shoes. Never again did the Indian team go to the FIFA World Cup. But today many stadiums in the country are named after Nehru Gandhi family."
Click here to view the post.
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BOOM ran a Google reverse image search with the viral video, and went through a long list of results to eventually arrive at a tweet by international football governing body FIFA from July 31, 2018, which contained the image in question. According to the caption of the tweet, it was a commemoration of India's first international football match on July 31, 1948 at the London Olympics.
When comparing the two images, we noticed that the viral image has been cropped - the original image, tweeted by FIFA, showed yet another player on the right who was actually wearing shoes.
Furthermore, the caption of the tweet mentioned that 'most' of the Indian team were playing barefoot.
Click here to view FIFA's tweet.
We also started looking through news archives from August 1, 1948 - a day after the match - to see what was reported on Indian media on the lack of footwear.
A report by The Indian Express from August 1 further confirmed what FIFA tweeted - that only a portion of the team did not wear footwear. "Eight of India's side did not wear boots but this did not hamper their kicking ability," it wrote.
Yet another report by The Indian Express from May 6, 1948, indicated that the football players had footwear with them. Speaking of the trial matches ahead of the Olympics, t read, "All the players turned out in boots, owing to the ground having become greasy after a heavy mid-day shower."
Yet another report by The Hindu from 2014 shed further light on this matter. The article started off by stating, "Certainly, having nurtured their talent without footwear, Indian footballers took a liking for playing barefooted."
Furthermore, it cited BD Chatterjee, the team's training during the 1948 Olympics, to state that the players were carrying shoes with them in London.
An article by sports consultant Rajan Thambehalli for Sportskeeda from August 7, 2016, further clarified on this reluctance by the team to wear shoes. This is what he wrote:
"This (deciding to wear shoes) was a decision the Indian players had to make and finally settled on wearing shoes if the conditions were wet (rainy) and if they had to play on soft grounds.
When the conditions were dry, most players opted to play without shoes and instead wore bandages to protect their feet. The question was not about affording shoes - it was a matter of Indian players finding it comfortable playing without shoes."
Furthermore, a post on the Olympics website on the Indian football team quoted then-Indian captain Talimeren Ao saying, "Well, you see, we play football in India, whereas you play bootball!", making further reference to the fact that the Indian players were used to playing without boots.
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