Real story behind India’s 99-1 win over Nigeria in World Cup game

The Indian National team leaving for a tournament back in the day
A few days ago I watched on TV as millions of Indians went into wild celebrations during the ongoing FIFA under 17 World Cup.

A certain Jeakson Singh was said to have scored India’s first ever goal in a FIFA World Cup as they lost 2-1 to Colombia.

What got me wondering was how the Indians fooled the whole world that they had never before scored in the World Cup because some of us know better.

Legend has it that the Indians were banned from participating in football first and then sports generally because of their uncanny ability to “over-win” games and other sporting events.

How the whole world thinks the Indians just scored their first goal baffles me. Like we say in local parlance here in Nigeria, these same Indians must have used jazz (Voodoo) to cover the eyes of the world.

So why then was India banned?

The legend continues that the Indians were banned by FIFA for ever from playing football because they used voodoo to win games.

Nigeria was their major victim as a World Cup match between both countries ended 99-1 in favour of India. However, no one knows the year this game was played or where it happened, just the legend.

The way I heard it was that the Indians scored with every shot on target because first, the Nigerians could not see the Indian players on the pitch and when they shot, the ball either multiplied into seven with the Nigerian keeper going for the one he thought was the real one, catching air, while they scored.

At other times, the ball metamorphosed into a fiery blast and the keeper had to run for cover to save from being burnt.
The Indian who probably scored 89 of the 99 goals. No boots

Yet again, the Indians were not done as the ball also on some occasions turned into a scary lion as it made its way into the post, causing the Nigerian goalkeeper to run for his life.

By the time they were done, they had scored 99 goals with Nigeria pulling one back, phew! At least we got the away goal, didn't we? Lol.

No need to check as you won’t see this game on this game on the FIFA website or any other archives because the result was expunged from world football records after the Indians were banned.

After they were banned from football by FIFA, they participated in the Olympic Games, and an Indian athlete, Javrashin Anand threw a javelin that has not landed until this day.

We hear it is still somewhere in orbit, terrorizing other planets as I type.

This was in 1960 in Rome and they were henceforth banned from taking part in any sporting activity until they sign an undertaken by their Prime Minister never to use voodoo to enhance performance in sporting activities.

In that same 1960 Olympic Games hosted in Rome, a poor shot-put throw by an Indian athlete landed at the airport in Rome destroying part of the run way. Since that was their third best shot put thrower, the organisers refused to let the others throw the shot put lest they kill a child in school in some far away village.

The pole vaulter, Vikram Bachan was said to have landed outside the stadium and many more uncanny things the Indian athletes did at the games

What’s the story around the legendary World Cup game between Nigeria and India?

If you grew up in Nigeria between 1970 and 2010 you probably heard a version of the Nigeria v India World Cup game that led to the Asian nation being banned from playing football by FIFA, but what version did you hear?

I caught up with folk from different generations to share their own version of the story.

Lolade Adewuyi (Columnist with Goal Nigeria and Guardian)
Lolade Adewuyi

India was a big myth when I was growing up. I heard India beat Nigeria 99-1. Anytime the Indians played the ball it turned into a lion and the Nigerian goalkeeper ran out of the post and they just kept scoring. We got a last minute penalty which Thunder Balogun took. As he was about to take it, some Nigerian from the stands shouted at him to remember his left leg and as soon as he scored, Thunder Balogun died.

Growing up, I realised it was a lie. Whoever concocted it took us for a ride and I hope our children never get to hear it. Maybe, it was even a cricket game. You can score 99 innings in cricket, certainly not 99 goals in a football match.
Hopefully, when we play the Indians in a real football match we will win.

Nduka Orjimno (BBC Pidgin service)

Nduka Orjinmo
Well, the one I heard growing up in the early 90s. I heard Nigeria and India played a match, though the year was never stated and the competition no one knew. Was it a World Cup Qualifier? Certainly not. A friendly match? Maybe. But it ended 100-1.

The tale was that whenever the Indians approached with the ball, it metamorphosed into a lion and the Nigerian goalkeeper ran off and that is how they scored a hundred goals

Now the only way Nigeria was able to score in that game was when Sam Okwaraji took off his boots, began to play bare foot and then scored. That is how I heard my own story.

Colin Udoh (Kwese Sports)
Colin Udoh

I heard different stories about the Indian prowess in football, but I think the one that sticks out is the one that had two Indians teams playing. One team loved to run and play in the air and the other on the ground. When the team that loved to play in the air got the ball, they kept on passing it in the air, their legs not even touching the ground until the ball dropped in their opponents post.

They went on scoring a hundred goals playing bare foot. My own version had nothing to do with Nigeria though.

Calvin Onwuka (CEO,

Calvin Onwuka
I did not hear that Nigeria lost 100-1 to India. I heard that we played against them but that when the Indians had the ball our players could not see them.

Our keeper also did not see the balls coming to him. Unfortunately, my version did not come with a score line.

Moseph Ekine (CEO

Ekine Moseph is in India to watch the under 17 World Cup and says that was the first question he asked as soon as he got to Delhi.

All the Indians laughed and said they’d never heard of a football match played against Nigeria.

I heard while growing up that we lost 99-1 to India. Sam Okwaraji scored and lost his life in the process.
Ekine Moseph

Did FIFA really ban India from playing football?

Yes, the Indians were actually banned by FIFA and maybe that is how the Nigerian myth started, who knows?

Now following the story of the legend, the Indians qualified for the 1950 World Cup to be hosted by Brazil but loved to play barefoot.

They’d just tie bandages around their feet with the black magic and voodoo stuff inside it and whack teams 70 and 80 nil with reckless abandon.

FIFA sensing that it would ruin the World Cup ordered that all players must play with boots but the Indians refused and were henceforth banned from playing and have not played until the current under 17 tournament.

Do you believe this? That is the legend of the Indians and maybe, that was how the 99-1 story started.

What is the truth about it?

Did FIFA really ban the Indians? Yes they did. But was it because of their refusal to wear boots? Certainly not.

According to, India surprised the world with their performance in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. The Indian national football team, with every player playing without footwear (some players played in socks while most played barefoot), lost to France in the first round by the razor thin margin of 2-1 (and actually were tied with France at 1 all 70 minutes into the match). This match already drew a great deal of attention as the 1948 Summer Olympics was the first time that India was performing in an international tournament as an independent nation (after gaining their independence from Great Britain). However, the fact that the Indian team did all of this in bare feet drew the most attention.

The Indians loved to play bare foot
FIFA made it clear to India that they would not be allowed to play in the 1950 FIFA World Cup without footwear. Then a curious thing happened. You see, when determining the make-up of the 1950 World Cup, FIFA determined that obviously the two defending finalists, Brazil and Italy, would be guaranteed spots. That left fourteen spots that needed to be filled. FIFA decided that seven of those spots would come from Europe, six would come from the Americas and one would come from Asia. The problem was that of the four Asian teams that were invited to the World Cup, three of them (the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma) withdrew from the tournament before the qualification round. Therefore, India earned an automatic spot within the World Cup. It would be India's first time appearing in the World Cup (and, indeed, as of 2011 they still have never appeared in the World Cup), but India, too, withdrew from the tournament.

For years, the story has been that India withdrew from the World Cup because FIFA would not allow them to compete barefoot.

First of all, the World Cup in 1950 was being held in Brazil. In 1950, it was not a simple matter to travel from, say, Burma, to Brazil. In fact, the team from Turkey withdrew because of financial concerns over traveling to Brazil. So teams withdrawing from the World Cup over financial reasons would be quite reasonable. In fact, that is an alternate theory that has arisen over the years – that India withdrew because they could not afford the trip. This appears to be false, as the organizers offered to pay most of the travel expense to get India to Brazil (as if India did not come, they would not have a representative from Asia, which is exactly what happened – the tournament ended up playing with 14 teams instead of 16, with one group having just two teams in it).

One version said Sam Okwaraji scored for Nigeria
According to India's Sports Illustrated magazine, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced that the team would not attend the World Cup, citing "disagreements over team selection, and insufficient practice time." However, as Kaushik Bandyopadhyay, associate editor of the journal Soccer and Society, put it Sports Illustrated:

A careful study reveals that beneath the apparent financial difficulties given as cause of withdrawal lay the AIFF's unusual failure to appreciate the importance of participating in the Cup, despite assurances from the organizing committee to bear a major part of the tour expenses.

This general idea, that the AIFF just did not take the World Cup seriously, considering the Olympics to be the ultimate goal, is backed up by Sailen Manna, who would have been the captain of the team. As he told Sports Illustrated, "We had no idea about the World Cup then. Had we been better informed, we would have taken the initiative ourselves. For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger."

Nowhere in any of the discussions at the time was the barefoot issue. It might certainly have been something that would have annoyed the Indian team, but it did not appear as though it was the main reason for the team refusing to travel to Brazil. It seems much more likely that the Indian football officials just did not think that the World Cup was a big enough of a deal to warrant sending their players halfway across the world. Again, do note that 3/4 of the Asian teams had already withdrew!! Clearly, the World Cup was not some significant draw at the time if so many of the other Asian countries did not even try to get into the tournament.

So I am willing to believe Manna and the research of the Indian Sports Illustrated when they say that bare feet was not the major reason India did not attend the 1950 World Cup. Sadly, though, their decision not to attend clearly did affect Indian football. Manna reflected sadly that, "Indian football would have been on a different level had we made that journey."
Tesilim Thunder Balogun scored for Nigeria too

The truth is that the Indians, at least in Africa and Nigeria are revered for their prowess in black magic and this is no doubt due to their movies imported to Nigeria in the 70s and 80s.
Titles like Nagin, the snake girl, Yeh Vaada Raha, Dharhamveer, Dos Numbri etc showed humans dancing with snakes and all sorts of magic that only the Indians knew how they performed.

Coupled with the fact that as a kid growing up I saw, and others saw too, photos of Indian football national team players tying bandages around their feet and “refusing” to play with boots, it just had to be that there was something they had put inside the bandages that wouldn't fit if they wore regular boots.

And maybe, that was how the whole thing came about and I must say, that story has lasted more than fifty decades, at least in Nigeria.

So the next time you hear that India beat Nigeria 99-1 and were subsequently banned from playing football by FIFA, please refer them to this blog post.

But it is a great story to tell though. One that should not die with our generation. We must move it from Thunder Balogun scoring for Nigeria to Sam Okwaraji and maybe Austin Okocha getting that goal leading to his retirement because the lions chased him in his dreams.

Welcome back to the World Cup, India and maybe, you should have a real game against Nigeria and see how that one ends.

Maybe, the balls will actually turn into lions and balls of fire for real.

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