India has not been the most football-savvy country, nor has the world-famous sport of football been as popular as games like Cricket among the Indians. However, football is India’s second most followed sport, even though it is significantly behind Cricket in followership. Notwithstanding, its reach so far is attributable to the efforts invested by significant figures in Indian football history- figures like the prominent father of Indian football.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari is remembered to date as the father of Indian football. His significant contributions to the growth and popularity of football in India remain unparalleled. Being the first to introduce the world-famous sport to a group of his colleagues at school and taking it all up from there to founding the very first Indian football association, Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari was the first to begin taking steps to make the game of football popular in India.
In this post, we delve into the one in a million story of the first Indian to kick a football.
Who Called the Father Of Indian Football?
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari is popularly remembered as the father of Indian football. This title is accorded to the Indian legend because of his critical role in founding and establishing football in India.
Among the notable contributions Nagendra made to the growth of Indian football, some include founding the Boy’s club, which would later be the birthplace of the first Indian football association, and founding a number of Indian football clubs.
Why is Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari called the Father of Indian Football?
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari is called the father of Indian football because of his unparalleled contribution to the sport at a time when the British didn’t let Indians take part in the world famous sport. Nagendra’s Indian football founding story dates as far back as his early life- during his school days of young Nagendra.
Nagendra introduced his classmates to the football game sometime in 1877 after he had seen and was thrilled by watching some soldiers in the British army play the game on the Calcutta FC ground. Schooling at the Hare school at the time, the young boy convinced his friends about football and purchased a ball. However, since young Nagendra Prasad was inexperienced with the game, he got a rugby ball instead of a football.
With support from the professor of the presidency college, he learned more about the game. He immediately got other colleagues to be as enthusiastic about football as he was, and just the next day, they would be gathered on the school field playing the beautiful game. Around this time, the young Indian legend established the Boys club alongside his friend of royal ancestry and classmate Nagendra Mullick.
This move made by Nagendra Prasad and his enthusiastic classmates encouraged college students from other prominent institutions at the time, like the Calcutta Medical College, St Xaviers College, and the Presidency College, to go about starting their football teams.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari went on to find a number of the very first football clubs in India. Some of the most significant clubs he founded include the Wellington and Sovabazar.
At the time of Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari, football was still widely regarded as exclusively for the affluent in society. So even after establishing the Wellington club in 1884, he fought this belief and the complications to the sport that arose from preferring players of a particular social status.
A striking scenario that depicted this discrimination against those in the lower caste was when Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari included a potter’s son, Moni Das, in the team but was sternly opposed by the more financially capable members of the club.
This petty display of discrimination prompted Nagendra Prasad to bring an end to the Wellington club in his bid to uphold the spirit of sportsmanship the game of football represents. So the father of Indian football dissolved his first club, the Wellington club, to keep the spirit of sportsmanship alive.
Following the dissolution of the Wellington club, Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari started a new football club called the Sovabazar club in 1887. He put together the new football club bringing together players from the football clubs he had started previously, some of which included the Boys club, Friends club, and Presidency club. The Sovabazar club was founded on the principle of sportsmanship, which Nagendra Prasad preached and allowed sportsmen from any class of society to join.
To celebrate the improvement, Moni Das, who had been strongly disapproved of by the elite members of the Wellington club, was inducted into the newly created Sovabazar club. Moni Das went on in his career to captain the Mohun Bagan AC- another monumental sports body in colonial and post colonial India.
The Sovabazar club was not the only club Nagendra Prasad built. He also started the Howrah Sporting club alongside Bama Charan Kundu. However, team Sovabazar would later grow to become the very first Indian club to take part in the first public football tournament in India in 1889- the Trades cup.
The Sovabazar club also became the first Indian club to defeat a British team. The club’s stellar victory was recorded in the opening match of the Trades cup in 1892 when they took home the win with a 2-1 victory over the East Surrey regiment.
This would not be the only victory the Indian football club would record against a British team. Later in 1900, the Sovabazar club won a match against the Shibpur Engineering College. The Sovabazar club also recorded a significant win against the top rated Mohun Bagan to secure the Asanullah cup at the finals in 1916.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari also catalyzed the formation of the Indian Football Association (IFA) in 1892. The persistent proposals he sent to the British representatives on the importance of organizing matches in an orderly manner were instrumental in leading up to the formation of the IFA.
Although he was instrumental in forming the Indian Football Association, Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari passed on the opportunity to be called the first Indian member to kali Mitter- a senior member of the Sovabazar club.
The IFA conducted its first football tournament in 1893, named the IFA shield, and Nagendra Prasad’s Sovabazar club was the first all Indian club to play at the tournament. However, as time went on, other all-Indian clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan began taking part in the IFA tournament.
This led up to the popular Indian football story of eleven Indians on bare feet beating the English players of the East Yorkshire regiment at the final match of the 1911 IFA shield. The creation of the IFA shield tournament took the popularity of football in India, and the frenzy for the sport to a whole new level, and the IFA shield is still hosted annually to this day.
Much later, in 1902, Nagendra Prasad stepped away from engaging in sports bodies and instead became an attorney with the Calcutta High Court.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari was born on the 27th of August, 1869. He was born into the prominent Sarbadhikari family in Calcutta, which is now called Kolkata in West Bengal. His father, Dr. Surya Kumar Sarbadhikari, was a surgeon who served during the times of the Indian rebellion of 1857. Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari died in 1940, but his contributions to the game of football in India stand him out as the father of Indian football. A recent movie titled
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Who Started Football In India?
The football game first entered India sometime in the mid-nineteenth century through the British soldiers who played the game among themselves. However, the game of football would later spread in India and become more organized because of the efforts of Nagendra Prasad- the father of Indian football.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari is credited with being the first Indian to kick a football. And he didn’t just kick the football but took significant steps to establish the world famous sport in India. He founded a number of sporting clubs and contributed to the starting of the Indian Football Association.
Other significant milestones in the story of Indian football include launching the Durand cup, the IFA shield tournament, and founding India’s oldest current club, the Mohun Bagan A.C.
Which Is The First Football Team In India?
Calcutta FC was the first football team to be created in India. Calcutta FC was started in 1872. It was named after the popular home of Indian football, Calcutta (presently referred to as Kolkata).
The first football match organized in then-British India featured the Calcutta club of civilians playing against the Gentlemen of Barrackpore as far back as 1854. The Calcutta FC would be established 18 years later as the first Indian football club.
Other old Indian football clubs that were created shortly after the Calcutta FC include the Traders club, Dalhousie club, and the Naval volunteers club.
Which Country Started Football In India?
The British brought the game of football to then-British India. The first football matches in India were played between teams that consisted wholly of British soldiers. However, with the efforts of the father of Indian football, Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari, Indian teams came to the fore, and bodies like the Indian Football Association and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) were soon formed.
Since the contributions of Nagendra Prasad to the development of football in India and after the formation of regulatory bodies for the sport in India, the game of football has grown to be popular in the country. However, the very origin of the game of football in India is attributable to the British.
Which Is The First Football League In India?
The National Football League (NFL) was the first nationally recognized Indian football league that featured Indian football clubs competing against themselves. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) founded the NFL in 1966. Other divisions were added in 1997 and 2006, and the I- league eventually replaced the NFL.
Football might not be the most popular sport in India. Still, the history of football in India goes centuries back, and the present reach of the sport among Indians is attributable to the investments of the founding father of Indian football- Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari.