On July 31, 1948, Indian football team played against France in the London Olympics. It was the first appearance of team India after the independence.
The team was led by extraordinary Talimeren Ao of Nagaland.
Popularly known as T Ao, he was born in 1918 in Naga Hills of Assam that eventually became Nagaland later. Apparently, he also became the first Naga to complete his MBBS two years after he scripted history by leading team India in 1948 London Olympics.
Describing T Ao, Sharda Ugra, a senior sports writer, once wrote: “A phantom figure who hovers over the football history of free India, his footprints have faded but the name is resonant and powerful in the collective memory of his people.”
Ao also captained Mohun Bagan in the late 1940s.
Although India lost the match narrowly by 2-1, history was created 72 years ago. Ao played five more matches for India before retiring.
Remembering the moment, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tweeted about the match on July 31. FIFA’s official Twitter handle also retweeted it.
It was one of the most talked-about matches during that period as 11 Indians, mostly barefooted, with only bandages strapped around their ankles, strutted onto the Lynn Road football ground in London, the crowd looked on in awe.
Despite the loss, India had won the hearts. The team also became a darling of the British media after captain T Ao, answering a journalist’s question on why most of his team played barefoot, said: “It’s football, not bootball.”