The international football governing association, FIFA in an official statement, suspended the All India Football Federation citing the “undue influence from third parties” which is a serious violation of the apex body’s dictum. As a result, India lost the hosting rights for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup this year. In addition, the Blue Tigers despite their heroics in the AFC Cup qualifiers this year might now be ousted from the main tournament due to this ban. The ban brings in probably the worst phase of Indian football. The sorry state of affairs in the AIFF has never been a secret as the federation always stood on the brink of such a disappointing scenario that it faces today.
Though the ban does not have a serious impact on the ISL and the I-league but the clubs will now unlikely get to play in the Asian tournaments. Also, the clubs will also not be permitted to sign overseas players henceforth. In a key development, the Gokulam Kerala women’s side that had flown to Uzbekistan for the AFC women’s club championships but were barred from the tournament without a single game.
The Bureau of the FIFA Council has unanimously decided to suspend the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes. The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs. The suspension means that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022™, scheduled to take place in India on 11-30 October 2022, cannot currently be held in India as planned. FIFA is assessing the next steps with regard to the tournament and will refer the matter to the Bureau of the Council if and when necessary. FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved.FIFA suspends AIFF on account of flagrant violations of the statute
The internal problems in AIFF
This is not the first instance where FIFA have suspended a national football body on accounts of “third-party involvement in its management”. Prior to this, the federations of Trinidad & Tobago, Kenya, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria have been banned on similar charges. The “third-party influence” in the case of AIFF is the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA). The committee constituted Justice Anil Dave (Former Judge, Supreme Court of India), Dr. SY Qureshi (Former Chief Election Commissioner), and Mr. Bhaskar Ganguli (Former Indian Football Captain).
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The third-party influence
The reason behind the intervention of the court was the irregularities in the electoral model of the apex football council of the country. Back in December 2020, the then AIFF president Praful Patel completed his 12-year(3 terms) tenure, the maximum term allowed to any National Sports Federation (NSF) chairman as per the country’s Sports Code. However, AIFF requested the court to clarify several statutes of the existing constitution ahead of the elections. Consequently, the elections were temporarily postponed. And on May 18 2022, roped in the CoA to “look after the administration of AIFF, to suggest amendments in the Constitution of AIFF as suggested by the Honourable Supreme Court, and holding the next election in accordance with the new constitution as framed under the supervision of the Honourable Supreme Court.”
The CoA issued an official statement on the suspension of AIFF and called out FIFA’s move to be surprising and unfortunate.
“When a sincere effort was being made by the CoA to give due importance to the players, who are really interested in the sport, as per the spirit of the National Sports Code of India, the order of suspension has been slapped. All efforts were made by the CoA to see that the Constitution of AIFF is being framed as per the Order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the National Sports Code. It is really sad.”Former Indian captain and member of CoA, Bhaskar Ganguly stated.
FIFA vs CoA
The major area of conflict between FIFA and the CoA was the composition of the electoral college. Back in June, the FIFA and the AFC held talks with the CoA and gave them a target date of July 31 to propose the final draft of the new constitution. The CoA was in the view for more participation of former players to benefit the reconstruction of Indian football. Therefore, it was propounded the Electoral College will be comprised of 36 eminent footballers alongside the existing 36-member association.
But FIFA in response critically reacted to the proposal as it might undermine the importance of the existing members of the AIFF Congress. The global football governing council suggested reducing the representation of former footballers to 25% instead of 50%. However, the Supreme Court passed an interim order which called for fresh elections in AIFF with the 72-member electoral college as initially proposed by the CoA.
What lies ahead for Indian football
The Sports Ministry of India and the AIFF have been constantly in touch with FIFA but their requests to allow Indian clubs to take part in Asian competitions have unfortunately been turned down. The U-17 women’s World Cup is yet to be shifted to a different venue but it is highly unlikely to be conducted in India. Hence the U-17 Indian side too might not get to take part in the World Cup as it had qualified only because of being the host nation. In the upcoming AFC Cup 2023, there’s a huge shred of doubt whether Chhetri and co. will be seen in action or not.
Indian football arguably witnessed its darkest day on August 16 in its history of 85 years. The devastating news definitely caused a huge uproar amongst Indian football fans. For now, the only hope left is of a quick settlement between FIFA and the AIFF so that the suspension gets lifted soon.
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