In 1877, a ten year old boy was riding in a carriage with his mother when he noticed a group of Europeans playing a game at the Calcutta FC ground. Having never seen anything like it, he pleaded with his mother to break their journey for a while so that he could watch.
The gentlemen were kicking a ball around and at some point, it rolled over to where he was standing. He sent it back into play and Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari became the first Indian to ever kick a football.
He did not stop there. After getting a group of classmates together at school and inadvertently buying an oval rugby ball to struggle with initially, Nagendra Prasad and his friends formed the Boy’s Club, the first football club for Indians.
In a few years, his alma mater, Presidency College had a team as did other educational institutions in Calcutta. He also founded the Wellington Club in 1884 but that project ran into trouble early on as other members objected to the presence of Moni Das, who was from a lower caste. Refusing to buckle down to pressure, Nagendra Prasad dissolved the club and established the Sovabazar Club in 1887, with Das being one of the first inductees.
In 1889, Sovabazar Club became the first all-Indian club to participate in the British instituted Trades Cup and three years later, had a first ever win for an Indian club against foreign opposition. A 2-1 result against East Surrey Regiment.
Nagendra Prasad’s influence ran large over most footballing stories emanating out of Calcutta in those initial years. The game spread quickly and clubs mushroomed all over the city before spreading into other districts. Football had well and truly arrived in India.
Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari is popularly known as the father of Indian football. When he kicked that ball back into play as a 10 year old, he began a love affair for Indians with the beautiful game that still shows no signs of abating.