All India Football Federation (AIFF)


Igor Štimac


Sunil Chhetri


Sunil Chhetri


Sunil Chhetri


Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi


The Blue Tigers





The India national football team represents India in international football and is controlled by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

The squad is under the global jurisdiction of FIFA and governed in Asia by the AFC. The AIFF is one of the founding members of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and the squad is also a part of the regional federation.

The team, which was once considered one of the best teams in Asia, had its golden era during the 1950s and early 1960s.

During this period, India won gold at the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games, while finishing fourth at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Thus, India became the first Asian nation to reach the semi-final of a FIFA organized major tournament.

India has never participated in the FIFA World Cup, although they did qualify by default for the 1950 World Cup after all other nations in their qualification group withdrew. However, India withdrew prior to the beginning of the tournament.

The team has also appeared four times in the AFC Asian Cup, Asia’s top football championship and finished as runners-up in 1964.

India also participates in the SAFF Championship, the top regional football competition in South Asia. They have won the tournament seven times since it began in 1993 and by doing so became the most successful team in the region.

Football in India

Football is the second most popular sport in India after cricket in terms of players participation.

It is the third most popular sport in India in terms of TV Viewership lagging behind a long time #1 cricket and re-emerging kabaddi.

India’s current top domestic football league is the Indian Super League, formed as an unrecognised professional league with eight teams (now, 11) to promote Indian football in the country and world.

The league began in 2014 and after the third season, it was recognised as the second national football league, running parallel with the I-League, thus leaving India as one of the few countries with two fully recognised football leagues.

After the fifth season, it has been recognised as the joint top domestic football league in India. Also contested is the Santosh Trophy, a knock-out competition between states (provinces) and government institutions.

The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup was hosted by India in the month of October in 2017 and for the first time, the country hosted a FIFA event.

The tournament was touted as the most successful FIFA U-17 World Cup ever, with the attendance being a record 1,347,133 surpassing China’s 1985 edition where it was 1,230,976.

Indian football league system

The highest level in the Indian football league system is the Indian Super League (ISL) which was founded in 2014, along with the I-League (until 2022), which was founded in 1996 (as National Football League).

India is finally merging its two recognised leagues with the ISL set to be the top tier of Indian football from 2022-23.

The I-League will become the second division and will have its 2021-22 champions being promoted into the Super League. From 2024-25, the bottom-placed side will be relegated from the ISL to the I-League.

The I-League 2nd Division will stand as the third tier of Indian football, followed by the State Leagues.

India also has a comprehensive Youth League system for football as well.

Level 1 – The Indian Super League (ISL)

Indian Super League

The Indian Super League (ISL) is a professional football league, which is one of two co-existing highest levels of football in the Indian football system along with the I-League.

It is organized by the All India Football Federation and their commercial partners are Football Sports Development. Due to sponsorship reasons with Hero MotoCorp, it is officially called Hero Indian Super League.

The league currently comprises 11 clubs. Each season of the tournament generally runs from November to March.

During the league stage of the competition, each club plays against all the other clubs in a round-robin style. At the end of the league stage, the team with the most points are announced as league winners and presented with a trophy named League Winners’ Shield.

The top four clubs qualify for the playoffs. The season then finishes up with the ISL Final to determine the champions who are presented with the ISL Trophy.

The competition was founded on 21 October 2013 with the goal of growing the sport of football in India and increasing its exposure in the country.

The league began in October 2014 with eight teams.

During its first three seasons, the competition operated without official recognition from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the governing body for the sport in Asia.

The competition was also structured along the same lines as the Indian Premier League, the country’s premier Twenty20 franchise-based cricket competition.

Each season lasted just 3 months, from October to December, and matches were held daily. However, prior to the 2017–18 season, the league expanded to ten teams, expanded its schedule to six months, and earned recognition from the AFC.

The club that wins the League Winners’ Shield is granted to participate in the AFC Champions League and the club that wins the ISL Trophy is granted a place in the AFC Cup.

Since the league’s inaugural season, a total of four clubs have won the ISL Trophy and two clubs have won the League Winners’ Shield. The club with the most ISL Final wins is ATK.

The 2019-20 season saw the introduction of the League Winners Shield, awarded to the premier league team.

Level 2 – I-League

I-League India

The I-League is one of two co-existing premier football leagues in the Indian football league system, along with the Indian Super League.

For sponsorship reasons with Hero MotoCorp, the league is officially known as the Hero I-League. It is currently contested by 13 clubs across the country.

The competition was founded in 2007 as the successor to the National Football League (NFL), with the first season starting in November 2007.

The league was launched as India’s first-ever professional football league with the aim to increase the player pool for the Indian national team.

Unlike the Indian Super League, the I-League operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the I-League 2nd Division.

For the clubs that become I-League champions, they are granted the opportunity to participate in the AFC Cup, Asia’s secondary international club competition.

Since the inception of the I-League, a total of seven clubs have been crowned champions. Dempo have won the most titles in league history, being crowned champions three times.

Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan, and Bengaluru have won the league twice. Salgaocar, Aizawl, Minerva Punjab, Chennai City and Gokulam Kerala have won it once.

Level 3 – I-League 2nd Division

2nd Division League India

The Hero 2nd Division league is an Indian professional football league.

It is currently the 2nd tier of the Indian football league system, behind the Indian Super League and I-League.

It operates as a system of promotion and relegation with the I-League.

The 2nd Division League was introduced for the 2008 season, having been previously known as the National Football League 2nd Division.

The State FAs nominate the teams who have finished in the top 8 of their respective State Leagues, which are later approved by the All India Football Federation to participate in the consequent 2nd division league.

Level 4 – State football leagues

There are currently 36 state associations affiliated with the All India Football Federation.

These state associations have state leagues affiliated to them.

Elite League

Youth League U18 India

The Elite League is a system of youth football leagues that are managed, organised and controlled by the All India Football Federation.

It consists of 3 age groups competitions U18 (Elite Youth League), U15 (Juniors League) & U13 (Sub-juniors League).

The Elite League was previously known as Youth League U18, I-League U18, I-League U19 and I-League U20.

It is the top level of youth football in India.

It is contested between the under-18 sides of The I-League teams, Indian Super League teams, as well as other youth teams.

The most successful team currently is AIFF Elite Academy, who have won three titles.

On 7 December 2018 All India Football Federation decided to change its name from Youth League U18 to Hero Elite League.