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Indians at the Olympic Games

On the occasion of the football World Cup, I had written a small post on the scene of football/soccer in India. Since then they created an Indian tournament with local teams and a few soccer Grandpas, international ex-stars, coming to lend a hand. Some clubs also finally understood that if the Indians are really crappy at soccer, on a global scale, it could be because nobody has actually ever invested in this sport; and that there are hidden talents, even if only statistically, when you take the size of the population… For instance, Paris-Saint-German has an Academy in India with programs especially in Gurgaon and Bangalore. So as FC Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal (source).Million Dollar Arm cricket movie.jpg

It reminds me of this movie I found very moving, Million Dollar Arm (a coach of American football who goes and recruits players in India through a cricket throwing ball selection to make them American football superstars).

But the topic of the day is actually the Olympic Games, just to be a little trendy. India sent this year 118 participants to Rio and harvested 2 medals. And not the least medals, in my humble opinion, since they were both won by women. And BAM. Silver in badminton and bronze in wrestling. The fact remains, however, that India totals 28 medals in the Summer Olympic Games since 1900, with 24 participations – the same number of medals that this machine of Phelphs got for himself this year alone! I don’t even speak about the Winter Olympics... 9 entries and 0 medal.

India,Indians,sport,olympics,olympic games,football,soccer

India,Indians,sport,olympics,olympic games,football,soccer

Source: Wikipedia

The topic of the moment in India is to understand why Indians are doing so bad at sports. I hear a lot of the absent sport culture, about parents who do not encourage their offspring to pursue sports, that there are not enough subsidies or enough money to make in this field and not enough sports facilities. And nobody says anything about the heat. And that maybe, after generations spent their lives sweating like pigs to make a living and put food in their plates, they don’t feel like chasing a ball for fun? (and anyways they may have become too fat for that)

India,Indians,sport,olympics,olympic games,football,soccerThat said, this is a big generalization to say that Indians are bad at sports. Maybe they do not shine in the Olympic Games, but since they do nothing like anybody else, they also have a whole series of local sports*. Some involving being dragged in the mud by a Buffalo (Kambala). Others fighthing while playing rugby and touching each other (Kabbadi). There are also rowing races boats and canoe and a lot of sports related to archery, wrestling and stick fight, like Kalari in Kerala. Even, at the time of the Vedas (more than a hundred years B.C.), “men of stature and circumstance were expected to be competent in chariot-racing, archery, horsemanship, military tactics, wrestling, weight-lifting, swimming and hunting. The guru-shishya (teacher-pupil) relationship has always been an integral part of Indian sport from time immemorial. Indian sport reached a peak of excellence when Buddhism held sway here.” Less known, these sports have somehow survived and would deserve some attention, if not a Olympic spot! (Bad luck for Indians that cricket and polo were discontinued in the Olympic Games)

india,indians,sport,olympics,olympic games,football,soccerIt is also a big generalization since it seems that India ranked 3rd in the Special Olympic Games of 2015 – a competition for athletes with mental disabilities from 8 to 71 (different of the Paraolympics where competitors have physical disabilities). India gathered 173 medals! The best athletes are not necessarily those you could expect ;)

* Source:


Indians and football

At the hour of the football World Cup, let's have a look at the Indian football prowesses...

 So you may know it or not but India does have a national football team! Created in 1937, affiliated to the FIFA since 1948 and currently ranking... 154th (out of 207)! india,sport,football,world cup,shoes

In the sixties, Indians were actually among the top 3 of Asian teams. They even qualified in 1950 for the World Cup (in Brazil) but refused to participate, at the last minute. It is unclear why, the inadequate foreign exchange reserves, the long journey by ship, the obligation to wear... shoes (obviously the only reason which has been retained in the popular imagination)!

 Some Indians do watch football on TV – but almost only matches of English teams (a side effect of the colonization) are broadcast...

 Anyway, Indians and sport is not really a love story...




Why in India some people don't cut their hair and wear a turban?

 Sites dedicated to Sikhism explain that hair is a gift from God and therefore you don’t alter it (1). Moreover hair is beautiful (as any gift from God) then the longer the more beautiful. 

That said, I am more and more convinced that any tradition or belief has a practical origin. As a matter of fact, if the Sikh religion appeared in 1469, emerging from the dominant religions (Hinduism and Islam), it is only in 1699 that cutting hair was forbidden (2). Now it so happens that at that time Sikhs were cornered: they had to give up non-violence (a founding principle of this religion) and take up arms against the Muslims who persecuted them (just as they were forcing Hindus to convert). As the Muslims wore beards – also certainly for practical reasons: “Act against the polytheists,” said Muhammad. “Carefully size your moustache and let yourself grow a beard.”(3) – and Hindus were moustachioed. To differentiate themselves (on the battle ground and otherwise) they had only two options left: leave it all or cut it all (but then it’s a lot of maintenance)... 


And why the turban?  


Long hair may be beautiful but it is not practical. Especially you are fighting and everything. Therefore, “the turban is in all respects a very convenient headgear; it is even more advantageous during war that our hats, because what they fall less easily, and can more easily prepare a blow of cutting edge”. (4) In addition it protects hair from the dust. And women can manage however they want (without a turban)... 


But you must know that all turbaned men in India are not necessarily Sikh.

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For example, the Rajasthani (top right) people, originally farmers and shepherds living in a mostly desert region, protect their head with a turban. Which varies in shape, size (even if it is usually 8-9 meter long (5)), material, colour and designs according to the wealth, caste and region of the wearer or the occasion. 

Men wear turbans during weddings (top left).

And many janitors in big hotels or restaurants servers wear a turban (bottom left). In my opinion this practice dates from the colonial time when the Britishers must have found it classy to dress up their servants like that...  

Morality, the turban does not (only) make the Sikh! 

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Subsidiary questions: How do Sikhs manage at the swimming pool with their turbans? How can Sikhs wear a helmet when on a bike? How do Sikhs pass airport security with their kirpan (dagger (2))? 


At the pool, they take off their turbans but keep the piece of cloth thindia,hair,religion,sikh,turban,long hair,beard,moustache,turbaned,sikhism,islam,hinduism,guru,gobind singh,five kakas,kakas,rajasthani,name,singh kaur,warriors,kirpan,airport,motorcycle,helmet,sportat covers their hair and makes them look like Smurfs and they avoid putting their head under water. Same thing when they play any sport. 

The regulation regarding helmet-wearing in India is a bit complicated, since it varies from one State to another. In Delhi for example, it is not compulsory for women to wear a helmet! And in Punjab and Haryana where there is a majority of Sikhs, wearing a helmet is simply optional. As a rule, Sikhs are not forced to wear helmets (which are too small to accommodate the turban!). 

The Constitution of 1971 permits Sikhs to carry the kirpan in India. As for air-traveling, the kirpan is only allowed in a check-in luggage!  


And why do all Sikhs bear the name Singh (men) and Kaur (women)? 


Sikhism is an egalitarian religion, condemning discrimination based on gender or caste. Since in India, family names refer to caste, religion, region of origin, profession (yes all this! and it's hyper-complicated!), Sikhs use their ‘middle name’ as a surname. ‘Lion’ for men (Singh) and ‘Princess’ for women (Kaur).  


But beware, the name Singh does not (only) make the Sikh. 

There are people by the name Singh that are not Sikh. How to make things simple when they can be complicated? J 



(2) Guru Gobind Singh (last of the 10 gurus who have developed the Sikh doctrine) has imposed the 5 kakas (5 K): hair and beard never cut (kesh) and retained by a comb (Adriana) symbolizing neatness, a metal bracelet (kara), military breeches (kachha) and a dagger (kirpan). Source:;, 7928403.php  


(4) & id = 640409723 


Other sources: ;   

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