But did you know that many well-known Indian athletes also played barefoot sports? When it came to removing their shoes, hockey greats Dhyan Chand and PT Usha were just as at ease as the Indian football team. However, they would run into problems in 1950, the year they made the World Cup for the first and only time, due to their obsession with playing without boots.
At the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, India had games against Sweden, Italy, and Paraguay on the schedule. However, FIFA disqualified India from the competition after learning that the team would play barefoot rather than in traditional football boots. Since that time, India has never advanced to the FIFA World Cup.
It’s interesting to note that several members of the newly independent Indian team played barefoot in the 1948 London Olympic football competition while having their feet bandaged to prevent injuries. Years of discussion surrounded the reasons why the Indian players were playing barefoot, with theories like the lack of funding from the sports authority being bandied about.
The majority of footballers did not wear shoes during that game because, according to him, Indians were not accustomed to playing with boots on at the time. Only after Yugoslavia’s 1-10 loss to India in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics were boots made a requirement in Indian football.
It is said that the legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand played barefoot against Germany in the final at the 1936 Olympic Games after taking off his spiked shoes and stockings. The former Indian sprinting champion PT Usha was renowned for training barefoot on the sand to develop her calf muscles.
According to reports, she initially felt uncomfortable while donning spikes but eventually grew accustomed to wearing them during competition.