Asian Cup Heroes: When India’s Inder Singh announced himself in 1964
The Punjab forward starred for the Blue Tigers in the 1964 AFC Asian Cup to kickstart a stellar career
When you search Inder Singh on Google, you get a list of people with that name who are either politicians, businessmen, a hockey player and more.
If you deep dive, you will find traces of Inder Singh, the footballer.
If you go by pecking order set by Google search, you’d never understand how big a player he was for Indian football.
Inder Singh’s football career spanned 25 years and while there are no official records, he believes he scored 500 goals during that time.
The Punjab-born forward has his name immortalised in the history books after he scored 23 goals in seven matches during the 1974-75 Santosh trophy to help Punjab win the title.
Known for scoring breathtaking goals in club football, Inder Singh left an equally big mark on the international stage.
In India’s relatively, brief presence at the AFC Asian Cup, the premier footballing tournament in Asia, Inder Singh made a big impact.
At the 1964 edition, only the second AFC Asian Cup ever, Inder Singh was a youngster in a star-studded Indian team that had won the gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games.
But a clever dribbler and boasting an ability to leave defenders dumbfounded with his skills, Inder Singh managed to earn himself a place in the team. Making his international debut at such a big stage, Inder Singh didn’t disappoint.
India’s preparations for the opening game against South Korea, a team they had beaten in the Asian Games final two years before was rocked by the news of the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s then Prime Minister.
After attempts to postpone the match failed, India took to the field with a heavy heart and needed the big players to step up. The Blue Tigers recorded a 2-0 win with young Inder Singh rising to the occasion and scoring the second goal of the game.
Wishing a Happy Birthday to #BlueTigers 🐯 Legend and Arjuna Awardee Inder Singh, who played a crucial role in India's 2️⃣nd-placed finish in the 1964 AFC Asian Cup, ending the campaign as the joint-top goalscorer 🎁🥳🎂#BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/BpukNKPqXm— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) December 23, 2020
India lost their second game to hosts Israel but bounced back in the third game to beat Hong Kong 3-1 with Inder Singh opening the scoring for the team.
With two goals, he was the joint top scorer in the tournament and was adjudged the best forward of the competition for his exploits.
The Blue Tigers finished runners-up which remains the team’s best performance at the continental showpiece but Inder Singh’s heroics haven’t always been mentioned when tales of Indian football’s glory days have been narrated.
He is the only Indian goalscorer to have scored more than one goal at the AFC Asian Cup for India apart from Sunil Chhetri who would look to add a glorious chapter to India’s history in the competition when he leads the Indian team in Qatar for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers boast a lot of youngsters who can take inspiration from Inder Singh’s performances in Israel 1964 when a youngster took it upon himself to lead his team to victories in two out of the three matches at the competition.
Inder Singh went on to have a decorated career scoring nine times for the Blue Tigers. He was picked in the Asian All Stars team of 1968 and became just the fourth Indian to achieve the feat and the first Indian forward to have the honour. A three-time Santosh Trophy winner, Inder SIngh became a coach and helped JCT Mills win the Federation Cup and the inaugural National Football League title.
As India gears up for another AFC Asian Cup challenge, it’s a perfect time to rewind and applaud one of Indian football’s heroes who lit up the continental showpiece.