When the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) was founded in late 2011, many critics questioned its potential due to India’s population being traditionally unathletic. The same critique was brought up when the NBA began expanding its global efforts through NBA India. It was and is clear that the rest of the world doesn’t think of India as a breeding ground for size and athleticism.
They’re wrong — sort of. Despite the country’s average height hovering around 5-foot-5, there is one region of India that “produces” some of the tallest people in the country and the world.
North Indians are extensions of people of Aryan descendancy who came from Afghanistan and regions of the Middle East. As a result of this migration, North Indians have very different physical characteristics compared to South Indians, who are not Aryans but Dravidians. North Indians are taller, and usually more strongly built than the South Indians.
There are some reports that estimate the average height of males in the Punjab region of North India to be about 5-foot-9. Compared to averages of other countries, North India would just be an inch or two short of the tallest populations in the world (Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark).
With how massive the Indian population is (1.2 billion people), odds are there are going to be enough people with the size and skill to play sports like football and basketball. In the past, young athletes have had very little motivation to get stronger and physically bigger. Sure, height is genetic, but size doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Now that India is offering opportunities, especially paid ones in these new sports, expect the myth that all Indians are short and unathletic to be proven false.