A set of images are being shared on social media platforms with a misleading narrative that the Indian football team had to play barefoot at the 1948 London Olympics, as they could not afford to buy shoes.
The narrative is being shared with an image of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and goes on to say, "This was the time when Nehru's clothes went to Paris to be dry-cleaned."
However, we found that the Indian national football team that played in the 1948 London Olympics had no issue affording shoes. The team did have shoes with them in London, they simply preferred to play without them as much as possible. The players only wore footwear when the playing pitch was damp or muddy.
Posts with the same set of photographs are being shared with the same claim in both Hindi as well as English, taking a dig at the former prime minister.
WHAT WE FOUND
We looked up 'Indian football team at 1948 Olympics' on Google, and found news reports related to the event.
The search led us to an article by The Hindu published in 2014, which stated that Indian footballers "took a liking" to playing without shoes. It also says that according to the team's trainer BD Chatterjee, the team had shoes with them in London, in case they needed it.
We also found an archived edition of The Indian Express dated 1 August 1948, which carried an article about India's defeat against their French rivals. This article noted that eight of India's eleven players played barefooted.
Further, we came across a 2018 tweet by FIFA's official account which noted that "most Indian players were barefooted". The tweet was shared with a photo, which showed one Indian footballer with shoes and three without.
The same image was also tweeted by the Indian Football Team's official account to commemorate 73 years since independent India's first football game at the Olympics.'
The Quint got in touch with Novy Kapadia, journalist and author of 'Barefoot to Boots: The Many Lives of Indian Football' to speak to him about India's first game at the 1948 London Olympics.
"The players from Bengaluru and Calcutta especially, they grew up playing barefoot. So, they weren't comfortable with boots. Later when boots became compulsory, top players like Ahmed Khan had to be dropped from the Indian team because they could not play with boots."Novy Kapadia, author and football expert
The football expert confirmed that the team certainly had a choice regarding their footwear.
"The choice was theirs. S Raman, who scored the goal, was an excellent dribbler, but could only play barefoot," Kapadia said. He added that playing barefoot was voluntary, as the players were comfortable and that then-captain T Ao had openly said that it was "football, not bootball."
All this is indicative of the fact that independent India's football team that played at the 1948 Olympics was not forced to play barefoot due to lack of funds, rather they chose to play barefoot.