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/