Why 1948 Olympics Indian hockey team played without shoes

News Claim: In a viral message on social media, showing the Indian Olympic hockey player from the 1948 London Olympics, played barefoot, it is being claimed that while Nehru enjoyed a lavish life, the Indian Hockey players did not have money to buy shoes.

Viral message on WhatsApp today & other Social Media: The message being shared on social media as, The below picture is of the Indian football team playing 1948 London #Olympics Independent India's football team did not have enough money to buy shoes. Some players wore socks & others played barefoot. This was the time when PM Nehru's clothes went to Paris to be dry cleaned.

News Verification: Though India had limited international football exposure in the 1948 London Olympics or the 1950 World Cup to which they had qualified but declined to participate they had acquired a reputation of being a skilful team. India had played impressively in the 1948 London Olympics, losing narrowly 1–2 to France, after wasting two penalty kicks by defender Sailen Manna and midfielder Mahabir Prasad. At the London Olympics, except for right-back Taj Mohammed, the Indian players did not wear boots, but still gave a dazzling display of dribbling skills, speed and body feints.

However, all these great stars of the 1940s played barefoot in their formative years. They even played club football in Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad barefoot. They learnt football-playing barefoot as it gave them greater control. Some came from poor backgrounds and could not afford boots. Most of the players were uncomfortable wearing boots.

So they played the 1948 London Olympics barefoot. It was a rainy day and the surface was slippery. Both Mahabir Prasad and Sailen Manna slipped while taking penalties. Who knows if they had been wearing boots India may have beaten France in their first-ever match in the Olympics.

As per Wikipedia, At a press conference, shortly after the match, the Indians were asked why they played barefooted. The Indian captain Talimeren Ao said, "Well, you see, we play football in India, whereas you play BOOTBALL!". This was applauded by the British and the next day Ao's comment was in the headlines of London's newspapers.

According to the information given in the article, in the 1948 London Olympics, Indian footballers had decided to play without soccer shoes of their own free will. At the same time, further, in the news, trainer B Chatterjee has been quoted as saying that the Indian team also had shoes for emergency needs.

Continuing the investigation of the post, we started searching for more news related to this matter. In search, we found the news in the archive of Indian Express newspaper dated 7th May 1948. According to the information given in this news, 'The first of the two trial matches for the selection of the Indian football team in the London Olympics will be held at Calcutta F.C. today. It was played in front of a huge crowd on the field. All the players came out wearing shoes as the ground turned greasy after a heavy mid-day shower."

We found this image on Times Content's website after Google reversed the picture of the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru being shared with the viral post. According to the information given with the picture, 'Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with his pet dog 'Pepi' at the Palam airport in New Delhi destined for Kulu-Manali on January 1, 1961."

At the same time, the second picture in which the players are seen in socks was found in an article uploaded on a website named Sports Keeda after being reverse imaged on Google. According to the information given with the picture, this is a photo of the feet of the players of the 1950 FIFA World Cup.

News verdict: The viral post turned out to be fake in the investigation of the news. In the 1948 London Olympics, Indian football players did not wear shoes because they were not used to wearing shoes. However, at that time, shoes were also present during the match for emergency needs.

About The Author

Chetan Sharma is an Indian fact-checker and news writer, writing news for Ayupp since 2014.

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