Indian Football

List of all captains in Indian Football Team's history

Mudeet Arora
Sunil Chhetri is one of the greatest captains in Indian football history
Sunil Chhetri is one of the greatest captains in Indian football history / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

The Indian football team has a pretty long history. Not many know that India played their first international football game in the year 1924 with both Indian and British players in the squad.

Soon after independence, India actually became one of the best Asian footballing nations for around two decades. The team won the Gold medal in the 1951 and 1962 Asian games and finished 5th in the 1956 Olympics.

Over time, football lost some prominence, but we saw India attain their highest ever FIFA ranking of 96 in the year 1996.

Since then, the beautiful game has been promoted to quite an extent when we see the present.

So, who have been the legends who led the Indian football team across it's history?

We take a look starting from the earliest known captains of the Indian football team....

1. Gostho Pal

Defender Gostho Pal was the first ever captain in Indian football team's history.

He started his football career with Kumartuli Athletic Club, and then joined Mohun Bagan in 1912. Since then, he played the rest of his career for Bagan.

He was appointed as captain of the Indian team in 1924.

2. Talimeren Ao

India's first ever football team captain post-independence from the British, Talimeren Ao led the Indian team in the 1948 Olympics.

At club level, he featured for Mohun Bagan for most of his career.

3. Sailen Manna

Under Sailen Manna's captaincy, India won the 1951 Asian games. He was also named in the top 10 captains by the English FA in 1953.

He is a Mohun Bagan legend, and he played for 19 years with the club. Manna passed away in 2012.

4. PK Banerjee

One of the greatest captains in Indian football history, PK Banerjee was one of the biggest reasons why India won the 1962 Asian Games.

As a coach, he had successful stints with East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and he also managed the Indian national team twice.

5. Prasun Banerjee

Brother of the legendary PK Banerjee, Prasun was a midfielder in the 70s and played for clubs like Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting. He captained India five times in his career.

6. Chuni Goswami

One of the greatest footballers India has ever produced, late Chuni Goswami led India to victory in the 1962 Asian games.

It is reported that Goswami once rejected an offer from Tottenham Hotspur.

7. Shabbir Ali

One of the greatest strikers in Indian football history, Shabbir Ali helped India to victory in the Asian Youth Championship in 1974.

From 1972 to 1984, Ali featured in 72 international games for India and scored 23 goals.

8. Inder Singh

Inter Singh first became India's captain in 1969 when the team took part in the Merdeka Cup.

He was then injured for quite some time before wearing the arm band once again in 1973 in the same tournament.

9. Jarnail Singh

One of the best centre-backs for India was Jarnail Singh Dhillon. He captained the national team between 1965 and 1967.

10. Mohammed Habib

Mohammed Habib was part of the Indian football team for a decade from 1965 to 1975. He also captained the team during this period.

11. Syed Nayeemuddin

Nayeemuddin led India to the bronze medal in the 1970 Asian games. One of the all time greats.

12. Gurudev Singh Gill

With more than a century of appearances for India, Gill led the football team in the 1978 Asian games in Bangkok. He also won the Arjuna Award in the same year.

13. Brahmanand Sankhwalkar

Sankhwalkar was the first ever goalkeeper to captain the Indian football team.

He stayed the skipper of the team for three years from 1983 to 1986. Sankhwalkar also won the Arjuna Award in 1997.

14. VP Sathyan

Kerala based defender, VP Sathyan captained the Indian football team for the first time in the World Cup qualifiers and SAF Games in 1985.

15. Bhaichung Bhutia

One of the greatest footballers produced by India includes Bhaichung Bhutia.

He cemented his legendary status in Indian football and was appointed the captain of the national team in 1998.

India won the 2005 SAFF Championship under Bhutia's captaincy.

And, he had quite an incredible send-off, with his career's final match being played against Bayern Munich in India.

16. Subrata Paul (still playing)

Paul has been one of the greatest goalkeepers in Indian football history. Having played for some of the greatest clubs in India, Paul was named the captain of the Indian football team for the World Cup, 2018 qualifying campaign that was beginning in 2015.

17. Sunil Chhetri (current captain)

What more is left to say about our Captain. Leader. Legend.

Sunil Chhetri is by far the greatest footballer in Indian football history.

He is the leading goalscorer in Indian football history and finds himself among the greatest international goalscorers in history.

Chhetri recently broke Pele's international goalscoring record for Brazil. With 79 goals, Chhetri is just behind Messi and Ronaldo in the greatest active international goalscorers list.

18. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (still playing)

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is definitely one of the greatest goalkeepers in Indian football history.

With a great amount of experience in Europe too, Gurpreet captained his country for the first time in a friendly against Puerto Rico. In the absence of Chhetri, Sandhu takes the lead.

19. Sandesh Jhingan (still playing)

Jhingan was handed the armband in June 2021 in the absence of Sunil Chhetri. With this, he became the 19th player in history to lead the Indian football team. Jhingan captained the side against Mauritius and St. Kitts and Nevis.