Indian National Football Team

The India national football team, governed by the AIFF, is a team in South Asia. They won gold at the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games, finished fourth in the 1956 Olympics, and were runners-up in the 1964 AFC Asian Cup. India has won the SAFF Championship eight times.


The Indian football team’s first official international tour was in 1924, led by Gostha Pal. They played their first FIFA-recognized match in 1937 against Australia. Their first match as an independent nation was at the 1948 Olympics against France, notably played barefoot or in socks.

In 1950, India qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil after the other teams in their group withdrew. However, India also withdrew before the tournament began. Despite the widespread belief that they withdrew due to FIFA’s ban on playing barefoot, team captain Sailen Manna clarified this wasn’t the reason. It is now generally understood that India chose not to participate because they prioritised the Olympics over the World Cup, deeming the latter less prestigious. Since then, India has not qualified for another World Cup.

Although India did not participate in the 1950 World Cup and avoided the Asian zone qualifiers until 1985, the years leading up to 1964 are considered the “golden era” of Indian football. Coached by Syed Abdul Rahim, India emerged as one of Asia’s top teams. In March 1951, Rahim led India to their first major victory at the Asian Games, defeating Iran 1–0 in the final to secure the gold medal, with Sahu Mewalal scoring the decisive goal. The next year, India struggled in the cold conditions at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, losing 10–1 to Yugoslavia, prompting the AIFF to mandate the use of boots. Following the Olympics, India won the Colombo Cup four times from 1952 to 1955.

India returned to the Asian Games in 1966 but didn’t progress beyond the group stage. In 1970, they secured a bronze medal by defeating Japan. After struggling in 1974 and improving in 1978 and 1982, India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in 1984, finishing last in their group. Despite declining, India dominated South Asian football, winning the SAFF Championship in 1993, 1997, and 1999.

On 15 May 2019, AIFF appointed Igor Štimac as head coach. In the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, India started with a 1-2 loss to Oman but drew 0-0 with Qatar. They then drew 1-1 with Bangladesh and Afghanistan, losing 0-1 to Oman. Post-COVID-19 postponements, India lost 0-1 to Qatar, beat Bangladesh 2-0, and drew 1-1 with Afghanistan, finishing third in their group and qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup third round. Hosting the qualifiers, India topped their group with wins over Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong, marking their first consecutive AFC Asian Cup qualifications.

In 2022, India drew with Singapore and lost to Vietnam in the VFF Cup. In 2023, they won the Tri-Nation Series, the Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship. Sunil Chhetri became the second-highest international goalscorer from Asia. However, in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, India lost all group stage matches against Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria without scoring.

Key Indian players 

Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri is India’s all-time leading goal scorer and captain of the national team. Known for his goal-scoring prowess and leadership on the field, Chhetri has earned numerous accolades throughout his career. He has played for clubs in India and abroad, including stints with Sporting CP B in Portugal and Kansas City Wizards in the MLS. As of 2023, he has scored 96 international goals, making him third highest goal scorer in international football.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is one of the top goalkeepers in Indian football. He became the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League while with Stabæk FC in Norway. Known for his commanding presence and excellent shot-stopping abilities, Gurpreet has been a mainstay in the national team and has been instrumental in many of India’s successful campaigns.

Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan is a robust and reliable central defender known for his physicality and defensive skills. He has been a key player for both the national team and his club sides, including Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan. Jhingan’s leadership at the back has been crucial in strengthening India’s defense, and he has received numerous individual accolades for his performances.

Anirudh Thapa

Anirudh Thapa is a talented midfielder known for his playmaking abilities and vision on the field. He has quickly established himself as a key player for both the national team and Mohan Bagan. Thapa’s technical skills and ability to control the tempo of the game make him a crucial asset in the midfield.

Latest News



– British soldiers introduced football to Calcuttans, then the capital of India.  

– Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhakari, known as the Father of Indian Football, encouraged his classmates to play the game.  

– European teachers and colleges supported Nagendra Prasad in promoting football in Calcutta.


– The first Indian football competition, the Durand Cup, started by Sir Mortimer Durand, is the third oldest surviving football competition in the world.


– Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was established in West Bengal.


– Sovabazar Club became the first Indian team to achieve success by winning the Trades Cup.


– The Indian Football Association (IFA) was established in Calcutta, with no Indian members until the 1920s.


– Mohun Bagan became the first Indian team to win the IFA Shield, defeating British teams and earning the title “the immortal eleven.”


– An Indian team, led by Gostha Pal and consisting of Indian and British players, toured Sri Lanka.


– The All India Football Federation (AIFF) was formed with representatives from six regions.


– India made an official tour to Australia, playing against various clubs and the Australian national team.  

– R. Lumsden became the first Indian player to score a hat-trick in an international match against Australia.


– Mohammedan Sporting broke British dominance by winning the Durand Cup, defeating the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 2-1.


– India’s first major international tournament was the 1948 London Olympics, where a predominantly barefooted team lost 2-1 to France.


– India organized successful tours to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Afghanistan for more international exposure.


– India qualified for the FIFA World Cup by default but withdrew due to disagreements over team selection and insufficient practice time.


– India won the Asian Games, defeating Iran 1-0 in the final, with Sheoo Mewalal as the top scorer.


– India became joint winners of the Quadrangular Cup with Pakistan and won three subsequent editions in 1953, 1954, and 1955.


– Boots were made mandatory in domestic competitions, and match durations increased from 60 to 70 minutes.


– India became the first Asian team to reach the Olympic semi-finals, with Neville D’Souza becoming the first Asian to score a hat-trick in the Olympics.


– India finished fourth at the Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan.


– The Subroto Cup Football Tournament, an international inter-school football tournament, was first held.


– India won the Asian Games gold by defeating South Korea 2-1 in the final.


– India finished as runners-up in the AFC Asian Cup held in Israel.


– The first Federation Cup was held in Ernakulam, Kerala. ITI (Bangalore) won the championship. Pele played an exhibition match for Cosmos against Mohun Bagan in Calcutta.


– India won the Gold Medal at the SAF Games in Dhaka and repeated the feat in the 1987 Calcutta edition.


– India won the inaugural SAARC Gold Cup in Lahore, Pakistan.


– India won the SAFF Gold Cup in Kathmandu, defeating Maldives 5-1 in the final.


– ATK (Atlético de Kolkata) won the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) organized by the AIFF.


– Sunil Chhetri became the first Indian to score 50 international goals, achieving the milestone against Maldives in the SAFF Cup.


– India hosted a FIFA tournament for the first time. Jeakson Singh scored India’s first goal in a FIFA tournament against Colombia.


– India won the inaugural Hero Intercontinental Cup, defeating Kenya 2-0 in the final.

Team Ranking and Performance

The Indian men’s national football team’s latest FIFA rankings to 121

YearHighest rankWorst rank

Football team captains over the years

1924Mani Das
1926Syed Abdus Samad
1933Gostha Pal
1934–36Sanmatha Dutta
1938Karuna Bhattacharya
1948Talimeren Ao
1949–54Sailen Manna
1955/58Sayed Khwaja Aziz-ud-Din
1956Samar Banerjee
1959–60Sheikh Abdul Latif
1960–61P. K. Banerjee
1962–64Chuni Goswami
1965–67Jarnail Singh
1967–68Arun Ghosh
1969/73Inder Singh
1970Syed Nayeemuddin
1971Chandreshwar Prasad
1971Arun Ghosh
1972Mohammed Habib
1974Magan Singh Rajvi
1976–77Pradip Chowdhury
1978Gurdev Singh Gill
1980Prasun Banerjee
1981–82Bhaskar Ganguly
1982Shabbir Ali
1982/84Prasanta Banerjee
1982Parminder Singh
1982–83Brahmanand Sankhwalkar
1982Pem Dorji
1982Biswajit Bhattacharya
1982Monoranjan Bhattacharya
1984–86/88–89Sudip Chatterjee
1986Atanu Bhattacharya
1987Abdul Majeed Kakroo
1987Babu Mani
1989Mauricio Afonso
1991Bikash Panji
1992Krishanu Dey
1993–95V. P. Sathyan
1995–96/97/99Bruno Coutinho
1996/98/99I. M. Vijayan
1997Carlton Chapman
1999/2001/03Jo Paul Ancheri
2000Roberto Fernandes
2000–11Bhaichung Bhutia
2011- presentSunil Chhetri

Coaching history 

Since India’s independence, the national football team has had twenty-nine head coaches, including eleven foreigners. Syed Abdul Rahim is considered the most successful, leading India to gold medals in the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games and achieving a fourth-place finish in the 1956 Summer Olympics. Among foreign coaches, Bob Houghton and Stephen Constantine were the most successful. Houghton, who coached from 2006 to 2011, helped India win the Nehru Cup twice and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, enabling their first AFC Asian Cup participation in 27 years. Following Houghton’s resignation in 2011, India’s FIFA ranking hit a historic low of 173 in March 2015. However, Constantine, in his second tenure, revitalized the team. From June 2016 to March 2018, under his leadership, India went unbeaten for two years, winning 11 matches and drawing 2, which led to their qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. He also improved India’s FIFA ranking to 96 in July 2017, the highest in 21 years.

Present Coaching staff

Head coachIgor Štimac
Assistant coachesMahesh Gawli, Trevor Sinclair
Goalkeeping coachCroatia Frano Srdarev
Fitness coachCroatia Luka Radman

Indian Football Team players 

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith.

Defenders: Amey Ranawade, Anwar Ali, Jay Gupta, Lalchungnunga, Mehtab Singh, Narender, Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose.

Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Edmund Lalrindika, Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Liston Colaco, Mahesh Singh Naorem, Nandhakumar Sekar, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Singh Wangjam.

Forwards: David Lalhlansanga, Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Vikram Partap Singh.

Women’s National Football Team

The Indian women’s national team has not yet qualified for the Olympic Games or the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The team is currently ranked 66th in Asia and 13th overall in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

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