THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

EXCLUSIVE | India’s 1948 Europe Tour & the first international match

Indian national team (1948)

The latest episode of my feature series called “Down the Memory Lane” takes you back to the year 1948. The year when post-independence India gained official affiliation with football’s world governing-body FIFA and played its first official international match during a tour of Europe.

The historical facts and stats have been compiled and researched by me from various sources including FIFA, International Olympic Association, the respective clubs and other sources. Any reproduction in any media, publication and/or social media (e.g. Facebook) without written permission and credit to is prohibited!


India is currently ranked 143rd in the latest FIFA World Ranking (March 2013) and football fans know the recent records of the national team. But the new generation of Indian football fans don’t know the rich history of Indian football and I hope this feature story will be another useful one to reach out to the youngsters and to give them an idea about the past.

The Indian national team came to existence in the late 1930’s when the Indian team started to tour countries such as Australia, Japan and Malaysia with the Indian football team. India played its first unofficial international match against Australia in front of 18,000 fans at the Showground Sydney on September 3, 1938. They lost the first encounter 3-5, which was part of a five-match-series.

India gained independence from the British colonialists in 1947 and the All India Football Federation, founded on June 23, 1937 in Shimla, affiliated itself to FIFA to get the recognition to play official football matches.

The 1948 Olympics in London was the first official assignment for the Indian national team and the AIFF called-up 18 players for the Olympic football knock-out tournament, which happened to be a senior national team competition in those days.

The Indian team led by captain Talimeran Ao and legendary Sailen Manna left for England on June 6 and they didn’t leave any stone unturned to get the best possible preparation before the Olympics. India was scheduled to take on France in the 1st Knock-Out Round of the Olympic football tournament on July 31.

India played five preparation matches ahead of the France match to get acclimated to the conditions in England. The team played mostly barefoot, but they had some boots with them for soft and rainy grounds.

Coach Balaidas Chatterjee’s team won all the five preparation matches easily. India kicked-off with a 15-0 win against a Department Store XI (July 13), before they defeated the Metropolitan Police FC (July 16 / 3-1 at Thames Ditton), Pinner FC (July 24 / 9-1 at Pinner), Hayes FC (July 26 / 4-1 at Hayes) and Alexandra Park FC (July 28 / 8-2 at Wood Green).

Indian national football team in 1948 ( then came the historic day: July 31, 1948. Matchday at Lynn Road (Cricketfield Stadium), Ilford. The 1st Knock-Out Round of the Olympic football tournament in front of 17,000 spectators. India v France – The first official international football match for independent India!

Swedish referee Gunnar Dahlner was in charge of the historic match. Dahlner and the attendees witnessed an impressive Indian side making their Olympic debut and giving the French “l’equipe tricolore” and tough fight.

France won the match 2-1 courtesy to goals scored by René Courbin (30′) and René Persillon (89′), while Sarangapani Raman (70′) scored India’s first official international goal. The Indian team was unlucky to lose the match as they missed two penalties during the 90 minutes, but they won the hearts of the fans with their spirited performance.

Riding on the positive reactions by the fans and media, Team India decided to spent a few more weeks in Europe and play several friendly matches. The Indian team travelled to the Netherlands to play their first match on their Europe Tour.

India lost 1-2 against Sparta Rotterdam on August 12, before they managed to thrash Ajax Amsterdam led my legendary Rinus Michels 5-1 just two days later. But India went down to VUC Den Haag (The Hague) in the very next game on August 16, when Balaidas Chatterjee suffered a 0-1 defeat.

The next match was scheduled to take place in the German city of Düsseldorf on August 17, but the match was called-off on a short-hand notice. So the Indian team returned to England, where they arranged a friendly match against an All-Star Team of the Isthmian League, a regional football league covering London and South East England featuring semi-professional and amateur clubs. The visitors won the match 3-1 (August 21).

The next match took Team India to neighbouring Wales, where they played their next two games against the Wales Amateur Team. India won the first match 4-1 (August 23 at Wrexham), while the hosts managed to hold our boys to a goalless draw in the second encounter at Swansea.

The Indian team continued their tour once again in England, when they travelled to Sutton Coldfield, a suburb within the city of Birmingham, to face Boldmere St. Michaels FC. The English side welcomed the Indian team at their Church Road Ground on August 31 – a day with heavy rainfall and a muddy pitch, which forced the Indian team to wear boots. But Olympic goal scorer Sarangapani Raman headed home the lone goal of the match off a B.N. Vajravelu cross to hand India a 1-0 win. Approximately 800 fans packed the Ground and they were left impressed by the visiting team from far-away Asia.

The local newspapers published headlines such as “Football Style Contrast” and “Tourists Excel in Ball Control” in their match reports the very next day. “Last night’s match between Boldmere St. Michaels and the Indian Olympic XI at Church Road, won by the tourists by the only goal, provided an interesting contrast of football styles,” one of the newspapers wrote in their article. “Boldmere did well to hold their visitors to the lowest possible margin but it is no injustice to suggest that the conditions were all against the tourists.”

Another local journalist named John Camkin wrote in his report: “Boots were the cause of a considerable amount of Indian discomfort last night. They caused goals to be missed, passes to go astray and members of that country’s Olympic team to make many violent contacts with the Boldmere St Michael’s sloping ground at Church Road.”

Indian national football team in 1948 (“The tourists had been compelled to take to boots, an unusual item of football gear to them, because the heavy rain that fell throughout the game,” Camkin continued. “Only inside-left Khan was brave enough to leave the hated boots in the dressing-room, but his partner Sarangapani Raman was soon sitting on the touch-line undoing his laces. The boots discarded, he promptly put his head to a centre from Ballsasundara Vajravelu, a veritable coloured Matthews, to score the only goal of the game.”

India skipper Talimeran Ao was quoted in the local paper saying: “They were a team of workers, very hard to beat.”

The last match of the 1948 Europe Tour took the Indian team to Finchley, a district of North London. India faced an Athenian League All-Star Team on September 2, where they had to settle for a 1-1 draw at the end of the tour.

The Indian national team returned home after the final game and they were great ambassadors for the new post-independence India and they knew to impress the crowd on their first official assignment as a FIFA recognised football team.

I hope this feature was a great read for you and it helped you to learn new things about India’s football history. Please leave your comments in the COMMENT BOX at the bottom of this page and have a look at some of the other “Down the Memory Lane” features like “The Day when Lukas Podolski scored against India” [+ read more], “The last international match in Kerala” [+ read more] or “Forgotten History: FC Zürich thrash the Maharashtra State Team” [+ read more].


Kenchappa V. Varadaraj (Mysore), Sanjeeva Uchil (ICL-Bengal Club, Bombay)

Sailendra “Sailen” Nath Manna (Mohun Bagan AC), Taj Mohammed (East Bengal Club), T.M. Varghese Papen (Bombay FC)

Talimeran Ao (Mohun Bagan AC), Sattar A. Basheer (Mysore), Mahabir Prasad (East Bengal Club), S.M. Kaiser (East Bengal Club), Anil Nandy (Eastern Railway SC), B.N. Vajravelu (Mysore)

Robi Das (Bhawanipore Club), Ahmed Mohamed Khan (Mysore), Sahu Mewalal (Eastern Railway SC), Ramachandra Balaram Parab (Bombay FC), Sarangapani Raman (Mysore), K.P. Dhanraj (Mysore), Santosh Nandy (Eastern Railway SC)

Balaidas Chatterjee (Head Coach)

1948 Olympics | 1st Round
at Lynn Road (Cricketfield Stadium), Ilford


1-0 René Courbin (30′)
1-1 Sarangapani Raman (70′)
2-1 René Persillon (89′)


Guy Rouxel; Bernard Bienvenu, Marius Colau, Raymond Krug, René Persillon, Gabriel Robert, Christian Rouellé, René Courbin, René Hebinger, Joseph Heckel, Jean Paluch, André Strappe

Lucien Schaeffer; R. Bottini, Gustave Ducousso, Lazare Gianessi, Hacène Hamoutène, Jean Lanfranchi, Marcel Lanfranchi, François Mercurio, Guy Rabstejnek

Kenchappa V. Varadaraj; Taj Mohammed, Sailendra Nath Manna, Sattar A. Basheer, Talimeran Ao [C], Mahabir Prasad, Robi Das, Ramachandra Balaram Parab, Sahu Mewalal, Ahmed Mohamed Khan, Sarangapani Raman

Sanjeeva Uchil; Anil Nandy, B.N. Vajravelu, K.P. Dhanraj, T.M. Varghese Papen, Santosh Nandy, S.M. Kaiser


Gunnar Dahlner (Sweden)

Assistant Referees
Vieter Rae (Great Britain), Agostino Gamba (Italy)


Department Store XI 0-15 India

16.07.1948 at Thames Ditton
Metropolitan Police FC 1-3 India

24.07.1948 at Pinner
Pinner FC 1-9 India

26.07.1948 at Hayes
Hayes FC 1-4 India

28.07.1948 at Wood Green
Alexandra Park FC 2-8 India

31.07.1948 at Ilford | Olympics
France 2-1 India

12.08. at Rotterdam
Sparta Rotterdam 2-1 India

14.08. at Amsterdam
AFC Ajax Amsterdam 1-5 India

16.08. at The Hague
VUC Den Haag 1-0 India

21.08. at Ilford
Isthmian League 1-3 India

23.08. at Wrexham
Wales Amateur Team 1-4 India

26.08. at Swansea
Wales Amateur Team 0-0 India

31.08. at Sutton Coldfield
Boldmere St. Michaels FC 0-1 India

02.09. at Finchley
Athenian League 1-1 India

The historical facts and stats have been compiled and researched by me from various sources including FIFA, International Olympic Association, the respective clubs and other sources. Any reproduction in any media, publication and/or social media (e.g. Facebook) without written permission and credit to is prohibited!