Indian football team started to tour Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Thailand in the late 1930's. Soon after the humongous success of many football clubs, the AIFF was set up in the year 1937. India's first major tournament was the 1948 London Olympics, which India played barefooted and lost 2-1 to mighty France.
In 1950, Indian team, by default reached the 1950 FIFA World Cup. But Indian team withdrew from the World Cup since AIFF did not allow the team to participate. Reason shown by AIFF was that there was the cost of travel, lack of practice time, team selection issues and valuing Olympics over FIFA World cup. Since then Indian team has never qualified for World Cup.
The time span between 1951 and 1962 is considered to be the golden period of Indian football. India became one of the best team in Asia under Syed Abdul Rahim. Indian team started out their campaign in 1950s with a win in the Asian Games in 1951.
Later that year India participated in the Olympics but lost miserably with a margin of 10-1 to Yugoslavia.
Indian team won the three edition of Quadrangular Cup played at Burma, Kolkata and Dhaka in 1953, 1954 and 1955 respectively. India then went on to finish second in the 1954 Asian Games held in Manila.
In the year 1956 Olympic Games, India finished fourth which is still regarded as one of the best performance by India. India later participated in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo where they finished fourth, and the Merdeka Cup 1959 in Malaysia finishing second.
In 1960 India started out with the qualifiers of Asian Cup but field to qualify. But the team went on to win the Cup in 1962 beating South Korea with a 2-1 margin. India played in the Merdeka Cup in 1964, 1965 and 1966 where they finished 2nd, 3rd and 3rd respectively.
Indian was eliminated in the first round of 1966 Bangkok Asian Games, but took a third place in the 1970 Asian Games beating Japan 1-0.
Indian football teams failed to qualify at all major events until it reached quarter finals in the 1982 Asian Games.
In the year 1984 Indian team qualified for the Asian Cup quite successfully but could not make much impact. The team won gold medals in SAF Games of both 1984 in Bangladesh and in Kolkata in 1987. India in 1993 won the inaugural SAARC Cup at Lahore and finished in the second position in Colombo two years later. The championship was later renamed as SAFF Cup and India finished as champions on both occasions in 1997 and 1999 respectively, hosted by Goa.
Indian teams failed to qualify for the Asia Cup in 2004, but the senior team shone in a medal winning performance in the inaugural Afro Asian Games, with crucial wins over Rwanda and Zimbabwe, along the way the team lost the finals by just 1-0 to Uzbekistan.
Indian football, as a result, has been successful in getting immense respect, both nationally and internationally. Stephen was named manager of the month on November 2003.
India lost the SAFF Cup in 2003 and suffered humiliating defeat against Pakistan and Bangladesh. Team also failed miserably in the World Cup qualifier matches in 2006. As a result Stephen Constantine was sacked.
The win at the LG Cup in Vietnam under Constantine was one of the bright points in the early part of 2000s. That win was India's first outside the sub-continent after 1974. India won the final match against Vietnam in a 3-2 margin.
Syed Nayeemuddin took over as Indian Football Coach in 2005, but could not continue in his post for long as India suffered heavy defeats in 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. After he was removed from his post, Bob Houghton was signed in later part of 2006.
With the appointment of Bob Indian football team started to play well at international tournaments. The 2007 victory at Nehru Cup, 2008 AFC Challenger Cup win which helped to qualify for 2011 AFC Asia Cup, 2009 Nehru Cup were some of the best victories that the team had under Bob.
AFC Asian Cup
In the year 2011, Indian football team started its campaign by taking part in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup for which they qualified after around 24 years. Indian team was placed in a strong group along with tough contenders like Australia, Bahrain, South Korea. India, in all three matches that it played, failed to win a single one. Goal Keeper Subrata Pal, however won a lot of accolade for his performances.
After Asia C
up Indian football team, on 21st March 2011 played its first qualification match winning against the Chinese Taipei 3-0 with Jewel Sunil Chetri, Raja Shaikh and Jeje Lalpekhlu scoring the goals.
On 23rd March Indian team faced Pakistan and defeated them in a 3-1 margin. India drew their next game on 25th March where they faced Turkmenistanin. The result helped India to qualify for 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.