Indian football team compelled to play barefoot in 1948 Olympics? What’s the real truth?

It has been long rumored that the Indian National football team was compelled to play barefoot in the 1948 Olympics due to the pathetic financial conditions of the nation just free from the British Raj. The rumour has resurfaced on social media now claiming that the Nehru government was negligent in buying them the proper equipment while the prime minister himself enjoyed a luxurious life. See one such message:

After almost 70 years, this long-debated topic once again garnered the attention of social media users when a Facebook page named ‘Social Tamasha’ with a follower base of more than 70,000 shared a post about this issue on their page.

The post shared by ‘Social Tamasha’ claimed that Jawaharlal Nehru used to travel with his pet dog in airplanes when the Indian National football team struggled to find shoes to play on the ground. This post soon went viral on social media pages, and it has already racked up more than 1800 shares on Facebook.
The images shared by Social Tamasha including that of the then Indian captain Talimeren Ao shaking hands with the French skipper, and the photo of Jawaharlal Nehru coming out of an airplane are real. It was found through the Google reverse image search that the image of Talimeren Ao was from the Frontline website, while Jawaharlal Nehru’s image was from the Times Content website.

Did Indian players fail to get boots?
Even though the Indian football team captain was spotted barefoot in the image shared by Social Tamasha, the entire team had complete access to soccer boots then. A 1948 report published by the Indian Express on May 07 had detailed about the trial matches being played by the Indian team then.
“All the players turned out in boots, owing to the ground having become greasy after a heavy mid-day shower,” wrote the Indian Express. Going by this report, there is no truth that they were not provided boots.

So, what made the Indian football team play without boots in 1948 Olympics? A report written by a popular sports journalist John Camkin revealed that apparently, the Indian team was not comfortable playing in boots as they were used to playing barefoot or in simple canvas shoes. It was easier for the Indian football players, who had practised without boots to play the main match too without boots.

Here we can see them wearing shoes. Source: thehardtackle

“Boots were the cause of a considerable amount of Indian discomfort last night… 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,” wrote Camkin in Birmingham Daily Gazette.
The recent image shared by ‘Social Tamasha’ alleging that Nehru’s government did not provide boots to Olympic football players was a fake news aimed at tarnishing the image of the Congress party almost 70 years later.
Conclusion: The truth is that the Indian football players preferred to play barefoot as they practised it that way. They were seen wearing shoes in a group photo that negates the claim. Our rating of this social media message is ???? (Mostly False).


About Arun Nag

Arun is with Digiteye India since the beginning as the main source for re-writing stories and for re-checking the facts and images. He writes on general and political issues. He can be reached at or

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