tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Barefoot Guide to Indian Football, aka Soccer

In 1950 the newly independent country of India was invited to take part in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The organizers of the tournament in Brazil wanted an Asian representative for the football (aka soccer) showcase, which was being held for the first time in twelve years due to some war.

The qualifying teams of Asia--Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines--all decided against attending, citing the expense of travelling halfway around the world and the uncertain security and venue arrangements in Brazil. So FIFA president Jules Rimet called upon India to represent its continent.

There was only one catch: You have to wear shoes. India declined.

Who needs shoes? India played football at the 1948 London Olympic Games and the 1952 Helsinki Olympics barefoot. (Okay, they didn't win a single game; there is also a popular story that in Helsinki several Indian players got frostbite during a 10-1 loss to Yugoslavia.)

However, India won the gold medal in football at the 1951 Asian Games barefoot. Mohammed Salim, the first Indian ever to play club football in Europe (for Celtic of the Scottish League, in a brief stint in 1936 before he got homesick and returned to India), played barefoot all his life. Many legends of Indian football, few as they are, got their starts in barefoot leagues.

(India finally put on shoes for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. It advanced to the bronze-medal match, falling to Bulgaria 3-0. Alright, perhaps shoes are a good thing.)

Nevertheless, since it embraced playing in shoes, the Indian national football team has never qualified for the World Cup.

In 2010 World Cup qualifying in Asia, India was ousted in the preliminary knockout round by Lebanon, a team so mighty that after beating India it proceeded to lose all six of its group-stage games against Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Singapore (also not appearing in the World Cup this year) by the combined score of 14-3.

In the pre-tournament FIFA World Rankings, you'll find India sliding in at No. 132 out of 207 countries, one spot behind Swaziland (but also 32 spots ahead of rival Pakistan).

So as the World Cup gets underway next weekend, we'll not be seeing any of India. I've yet to discern if India will even be watching. After all, there might be a cricket match on somewhere.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/roosfotos/91313109/


ashramblings said...

My colleague's son and his cousin, both around 10 years old) came round last weekend to "play" on my computer - we drew things in Paint - it is all I had - and searched Google for pictures of cricket and cricketers. Oh yes, they knew the players and the teams, and the colours. So I thought I'd try a sport I knew something about which is also topical ie football / soccer - no, nothing. They just about knew there was a game called that , but not much more. I explained about the tournament for World Cup - which surpringly one fo them did recognise a picture of! I showed them the teams. Where was India, they asked. I had to explain they hadn't qualified. Oh dear , sad faces all round. I suspect they won't even watch it on TV. Coming from a country which hasn't qualified for years, I usually like to support the country I am in, but in this case I shall be supporting my second home - Algeria - which probably means only for the first round! For a Scot, nothing changes - plus ca change.

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