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Famous Indian football players

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If one checks country by country, not many of them won’t have football as their favourite sport. India is among the exceptions.

In India, cricket comes before football, even chronologically. While cricket arrived in the region at the beginning of the 17th century, football would only be introduced in the 19th century. Yet, it doesn’t mean that India doesn’t have some fantastic players to be proud of, and this article is about them.

History of Football in India

Cricket may have more fans than football in the country, as kabaddi arguably also does. However, India has the third oldest football competition in the world (the Durand Cup) and one of the oldest clubs. Calcutta FC was created in 1893, making it the oldest club in the country. Football is also a very popular sport for betting. If you’d like to take your chances in the next match, 10CRIC offers the best football betting in India.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the sport was used as a social activity to unite the Indian army. It was only in the 50s that Indians began to earn recognition and win one competition after the other. During this period, the national team won the Asian Games, the Olympic Games, the Colombo Quadrangular Cup, and other competitions.

Much of the national team’s success was attributed to coach Syed Abdul Rahim, who led the team during this period. Rahim’s career was abruptly interrupted by his premature death in the early 60s. Once known as the “Brazilians of Asia”, India would have to wait a few decades to restore its position in Asian competitions.

Most Famous Indian Players All of Time

History class is over; now it’s time to admire the Hall of Fame of Indian football. Here, you find players that wrote the history of Indian football and some that are still writing it.

Sunil Chhetri – Striker

  • Status: still playing

Sunil Chhetri is already among the most famous players of all time, and definitely, he’s among the best of them too. He’s 37 years old now, and he’s still playing formidably. His career includes teams from the United States and the Portuguese star Sporting CP. He’s also India’s all-time top scorer, with 67 goals. He’s also the captain of the national team.

Bhaichung Bhutia – Striker

  • Status: retired in 2012

Bhaichung Bhutia started his career quite young; at 16, he was already playing for Kolkota’s East Bengal Club. He joined the national team in 1995, becoming the youngest scorer in the national team’s history. Bhutia scored 43 goals and played over 100 matches with India’s jersey. He finished his career in a friendly match against FC Bayern Munchen.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu – Goalkeeper

  • Status: still playing

Born in 1992, Gurpreet Sandhu is a young and promising player. Despite his age, he was already tested with a captaincy during a friendly match against Puerto Rico in 2019. He’s among the five first Indian players in the European professional leagues. He’s a star in the field and on social media, too. Currently, Sandhu has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram.

PK Bannerjee – Striker

  • Status: retired in 1967

Pradip Kumar Bannerjee is one of the finest strikers Indian football has ever produced. He started his career when he was 15, in 1951. He scored more goals than other Indian players of that generation, and his mark of 45 goals took a while to be surpassed; 15 of them were with the national team. Bannerjee passed away in 2020.

Jarnail Singh – Defender

  • Status: retired in 1967

Jarnail Singh Dhillon mostly played as a defender, but he could play wherever the team needed him. He was part of the dream team responsible for the “golden age” of Indian football. In 1990, decades after retirement, Jarnail received the honorary title of Indian Footballer of the 20th Century. He also received the FIFA Order of Merit, the highest honour conceded by the institution. Jarnail passed away in 2000 in Canada.

Subrata Paul – Goalkeeper

  • Status: still playing

Subrata Paul earned the nickname “Spiderman of India” for a reason. The 33-years old footballer has a list of superb performances in important competitions. During the 2011 AFC, he made 35 saves, for instance. Paul’s career began in 2004 when he signed with Mohun Bagan. In 2016, he received the Arjuna Award, a national award for outstanding athletes.

Gostha Pal – Defender

  • Status: retired in 1935

Gostha Pal is perhaps the first big Indian footballer, born in 1897. During his time, he was nicknamed “the Wall of China” by the English press, reflecting his competence in this position. He played from 1908 to 1935, being an active part of memorable victories, trophies, and awards.  

Chuni Goswami – Striker

  • Status: retired in 1968

Chuni Goswami is another proud member of the mythic national team of the 50s-60s. During his career with India’s jersey, he scored 30 goals, earning a place among the all-time greats  Chuni began playing for Mohun Bagan and never played in any other club, not even when invited by Tottenham Hotspur. 

Jeje Lalpekhlua – Centre-Forward

  • Status: still playing

Jeje Lalpekhula is another promising young player. His career started to take off in 2015 when he received the FPAI Football Player of the Year. Jeje is a prolific scorer, and it’s the second-best scorer ever in the Indian Super League. He’s also a social media phenomenon, with over 350,000 followers on Instagram.

Jackichand Singh – Midfielder

  • Status: still playing

The 30 years old midfielder, named after the movie star Jackie Chan, has been crucial in many situations, with FC Goa and Kerala Blasters. He’s currently part of the national team, by invitation of the coach, Stephen Constantine. According to Jackichand, his highest inspiration is his fellow striker, Remedy Singh.

All-Stars

Even though football isn’t very popular in India, the country has an extensive and proud history of the sport. In recent years, the national team has been recovering part of the relevance and reputation it had during its best days. More money is being invested in clubs and in preparing new talents. It partially explains why many active players are among the all-time greatest.

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