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Indian's love affair with Football World Cup  

Indians love history with football started with clubs like Benfica and Selecaos in Calcutta and Goa and now it has spread to entire Country

Last updated: 22.02.2019
Indian Football fans during FIFA World Cup

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Although Indian football has struggled to make a mark globally, it has still got a golden past. From becoming the first Asian nation to qualify for the Olympic semi-final to winning the 1962 Asian Games, the Blue Tigers have seen it all. Despite such glory, the FIFA World Cup has eluded the Indian team. But how did India’s love affair begin with the world cup football.

The love affair with the FIFA world cup started in 1982, when for the first time the semi-finals and final were broadcast live on Doordarshan. There were highlights of several group matches also that were aired. Brazil’s dominance in that tournament with the likes of Zico, Socrates, and Falcao attracted many supporters. In those days, the majority of India supported the Selecaos. However, over the years that has changed.

In 1986, it was the first time that the entire World Cup was telecast live in India. That was the world cup which saw the rise of Argentina as a football superpower and the Maradona. Both Argentina and Maradona received massive following especially in Calcutta, whose fans traditionally supported Brazil.


As the exposure to the game increased, the support for teams also got diversified. Even in a country like India which is cricket crazy, the passion for football and the world cup is overwhelming. Unlike Calcutta who have die-hard Brazil and Argentina fans, Goa mostly root for Portugal. But why Portugal? The reason lies in their history. Before 1961, Goa was ruled by the Portuguese and it was an indigenized Catholic Church that popularised football in the state.

Also big club from Portuguese like Benfica, European Champions’ Cup winners in 1961 and 62 visited Goa regularly to help establish the game.

During their last decade of rule, the Portuguese dictator Oliveira Salzar used cultural bonding to show Goa was part of Portugal instead of India. They used football as a tool to create awareness amongst Goans the benefits of European rule. It was on December 22, 1959, the Associacao Futbol de Goa was founded. The organization later became the Goa Football Association (GFA). Portugal in 1950 also made belated efforts to develop Goa with a view to make its people better off than those in neighbouring India.

The Portuguese boosted Goa’s iron ore exports to Japan and manganese exports to the US. It was because of such moves that there was in-flow of money in Goa which helped football clubs to grow out of industrial organizations.

This led to the formation of Dempo and Salgaocar football clubs. Many people in Goa still speak Portuguese and hence have an emotional attachment towards Portugal national team in the World Cup.

The other team that is supported in Goa is Brazil because of their ‘beautiful game’. Both the people of Brazil and Goa share a common culture. The two countries enjoy an extrovert lifestyle and have carnivals which shows their lively nature. This culture is also reflected in Brazilian football and hence the support to the Selecaos. Also, it helps that Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking nation in South America.

Coming to the hub of football, Calcutta, it was once the administrative and industrial capital of British India. It during the British rule that the locals learned football. Interestingly, the hearts of people of Calcutta beat for Brazil instead.

Football has always aroused extreme passion in the streets of Calcutta and it reaches its peak during the clash between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, one of the oldest rivalries in the world.

Similar to Goa, Calcutta also has historic factors which have made its local passionate Brazilian fans. It has an anti-colonial tinge. The South American nation was the first to use the varied ethnic composition of its population to full advantage. Being crown champions in 1958, 62 and 70 in which black and mixed-race players like Garrincha, Didi, Pele, and Carlos Alberto portrayed that they could win in style appealed to people of Bengal. Above all coaches from Bengal have always emphasized on the dribble and pass playing style.

However, the 1986 World Cup was a turning point in Indian football fan following. The 1986 world cup was aired live, colour TV had arrived in India. This made Maradona’s brilliance even more extravagant. Post 1986 world, a new type of supporters emerged in Bengal. They were young, enthusiastic and were fans of Maradona and Argentina.

In Kerala, the population is divided, some support Argentina, some Brazil while some root for Spain and England.


With uninterrupted telecast of English Premier League (EPL) and the UEFA Champions League, there is a paradigm shift in the sporting culture of metropolitan class especially in the English speaking urban youth.

They are withdrawing allegiance from international cricket and given their loyalty to English league football. The urban middle-class youth of big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore have cheered for England as they are fans of clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

Apart from England, much urban youth are fans of Barcelona and Spain’s tiki-taka. After the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 win, La Roja’s following in urban India increased rapidly. Many fans admire certain players for their playing styles and skills. For instance, when Zinedine Zidane was at his peak, many supported France.  Also, Germany for their crisp attacking football in the 2006 World Cup got them many followers. The fans are divided from region to region but what binds them all is their love for football and the FIFA World Cup.

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