What Is India’s National Sport and How Has It Changed Throughout History

You may fall into the trap of thinking that the most beloved sport or game in a country is its national game. Well, we’re sorry to disappoint you, but this is not always the case.

In this piece, you will find out more about this tricky topic and know the mystery around the national game of India. Read the article and determine why the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is yet to have national sports.

The Pitfalls of Definition

The national sport is a very important part of the culture and entertainment of any country. Like gamblers who become excited when they can claim $300 free casino chip, sports fans feel thrilled when it comes to national games.

A national sport is a popular sport that the government has designated as the official national game. The pitfall is that the most popular game in the country isn’t equal to the national game. Which game comes to your mind when you think of the national game of India? You’ll most likely guess either hockey, cricket, or kabaddi.

If you choose any of these 3, you’ll be wrong. And this is not because these sports are not popular or a healthy part of India’s culture. But because the government has announced none of them as the national game of India.

What Is India's National Sport and How Has It Changed Throughout History

Why Are There No National Games in India?

India is home to over 1 billion people which makes it one of the most diverse countries worldwide. That’s why there is no declared national language in India. Choosing one would mean that the language is more important than the others. Which is quite divisive.

This is part of what has made the government reluctant to declare any game as India’s national game. There have been many inquiries by citizens to the government about national sports. One such example is the school teacher who filed a Response to Intervention (RTI). He wanted to know if the government declared hockey as the national game of India.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports responded by saying that the reason why there is no national sport in India is that the government promotes all kinds of popular sports disciplines.

Importance of Having a National Game

There is no official national game of India. Although hockey is often considered the unofficial national sport. Sport is not as divisive as language, and there are some advantages of having an Indian national game. Some of the advantages are:

  • A national game of India will be like other national symbols. It would give more value to India’s identity.
  • An official national sport encourages citizens to be more active. It encourages people to take part in popular sports disciplines.
  • A national game of India will bring people together.
  • Another importance is that India’s national game can make the stars of the game role models.

Only time will tell if the government will declare a national game of India in the future. However, the majority of citizens are convinced that Hokey could be a great choice to present India’s national sport.

Why Did People Believe That Hockey Is the National Sport of India?

There are many reasons to think of hockey as the national sport of India. The first is the fact that hockey is one of the oldest national games played in the country. Another reason is that the Indian hockey team is the most successful at the Olympics. It has won 8 Olympic gold medals and a couple of other medals too. Check the best Indian hockey players to get inspired by their strengths.

The most successful era was between 1928 and 1956, when the team won gold in 6 consecutive Olympic Games. The performances may have dropped in recent years. But India is always a force to reckon with in the world of field hockey. The table below shows the achievement of the hockey team at the Olympics from 1928 till date:

Venue (Year) Achievement
Amsterdam (1926) Gold
Los Angeles (1932) Gold
Berlin (1936) Gold
London (1948) Gold
Helsinki (1952) Gold
Melbourne (1956) Gold
Rome (1960) Silver
Tokyo (1964) Gold
Mexico City (1968) Bronze
Munich (1972) Bronze
Montreal (1976) 7th
Moscow (1980) Gold
Los Angeles (1984) 5th
Seoul (1988) 5th
Barcelona (1992) 6th
Atlanta (1996) 8th
Sydney (2000) 7th
Athens (2004) 7th
Beijing (2008) Failed to Qualify
London (2012) 12th
Rio (2016) 8th
Tokyo (2021) Bronze

History of Hockey in India

Hockey started in India in the 1850s. The Indian army, through British rule, was the first to play the game. The nature of the game made it a popular national sport in no time. In 1925, the Indian Hockey Federation was created. India made its first Olympics appearance in 1928, winning the gold medal on the first try. It could be a perfect moment to announce hockey as a national sport.

It went on to win gold in the next 5 editions of the Olympics. This dominance went on till 1980. Between 1928 and 1980, the Indian hockey team had a total of 8 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals. The only time it failed to win a medal was in 1976 when it came 7th.

Women’s Participation in the Game

Before the 1970s, only the men’s team participated in international hockey tournaments. The first appearance of the female team was at the 1974 World Cup, where the team finished 4th.

The team has also finished 4th on 2 occasions at the Olympics, in 1976 and 2021. Yet, the female team has been very successful in the Asian continent. It has won gold and been on the podium at several tournaments.

After the early 1980s, the Indian hockey team seemed to have been on the decline. Part of this may be tracedto the introduction of astroturfs. It seemed the Indian teams preferred to play on the natural grass and were slow to take to the astroturfs. The team has been able to dominate the commonwealth games. With the men’s team winning bronze in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

There have been several calls to make hockey India’s national sport. Even kabaddi is also often believed to be the national game of India. This is not strange as the performance of the hockey team remains unrivaled.

If we look at Australia, most think cricket is the unofficial national game. Other sports like Australian rules football and rugby are also very popular. These sports enjoy a huge following in the country.

As we mentioned before, national games have a lot of advantages. However, the government insists that there is no national game in India. India might be on the road to another dominant era.


Marie Foster
Marie Foster
Marie Foster covers Business News at OSN.

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