Is football popular in India too?

Why India Doesn't Have A National Sport

Every Indian school child is taught that the peacock is the national bird of India, Jana Gana Mana is the national anthem and hockey is the national sport. But surprisingly, hockey isn't actually the country's national sport. And what is that?

If you go to the kids of yesteryear, who grew up believing that hockey was the nation's national sport, you will be in shock. India does not recognize any particular sport as its "national game". This has been confirmed by the Ministry of Sports of India.

A hockey game | © Rohit Markande / Flickr

This revelation came to light when a young 12-year-old maiden name Aishwarya Parashar filed an RTI request to the Prime Minister's Office for certified copies of orders related to the declaration of the national anthem, sport, song, bird, animal, flower and the symbol of the country. The question about the national sport was referred to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport. In response to the RTI, the Ministry of Sports confirmed that it had not declared either sport or games to be a "national game".

That makes us wonder why hockey has been known as India's national sport for so long. Some would say that hockey's international success has made the sport well-known since its Olympic debut in 1928. The Indian hockey team won six Olympic gold medals from 1928 to 1956 and from 11 to 1980. Since then, hockey has been a huge disappointment on the international scene, despite currently ranking fifth in the world.

India vs. New Zealand Cricket ODI | © Chubby Chandru / WikiCommons

Success does not stay the same and is not the best criterion for deciding a country's national sport. This is probably why hockey is not qualified to receive this honor. The next criterion could be popularity, as quoted by cricket fans of India. But cricket was not popular in India before the 1981 World Cup win. Things could change again and another sport could become more popular than cricket. Hence, popularity is not the right yardstick to give a game national sport status.

Accessibility is another factor that determines which game could achieve national sport status. Hockey and cricket are both expensive sports. While hockey requires a stick per player and also a synthetic playing surface, cricket requires a bat and a ball in addition to other equipment such as gloves, shoes and a helmet. A large part of India's population is underprivileged and does not have the means to eat a meal every day eat, let alone sportswear. This makes most sports inaccessible to a large part of the population.

Children play soccer | © Qirille / WikiCommons

Soccer is a relatively inexpensive sport. You only need one ball for two teams to play with. In many alleys and back streets you can find boys playing soccer with a coconut shell or plastic bottle when they don't have a ball. But unfortunately India hardly has a place in the international football scene. Although local clubs are very popular, to qualify as a national game, a sport must have international success. That excludes football.

Cultural relevance becomes the final factor when deciding on a country's national sport. But India has so many different cultures that it is difficult to choose a sport that is relevant to all cultures. Kabaddi is popular in the north, boat races are popular in the south, and football is popular in Bengal. It is therefore impossible to find a single sport that is important for everyone.

It now makes sense why India doesn't have a national sport. With so many people and cultures, it is impossible and impractical to choose a game that will appeal to the whole nation. By the time India finds out what its national sport is, people will enjoy cricket and read history books about hockey.

Author: Arturo Clark

Arturo Clark is a 36 year old journalist. Extreme web lover. Prone to apathetic seizures. Lovers of alcohol. Twitter geek. Bacon Evangelist. Incurable beer dealer. Food expert. Professional student.