With FIFA suspending the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect for undue influence from third parties, former central minister and NCP leader Praful Patel, is in the middle of a storm.
On Tuesday, FIFA came out with a statement which read as, “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.”
According to the statement, 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once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs.
What does the suspension mean for the FIFA under-17 Women’s World cup that was scheduled to take place in India in October? The statement clarified in this regard too, “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.”
So what led to all this and how is NCP leader Praful Patel related to all this controversy?
Earlier this year in May, the Supreme Court had ousted the sitting president Praful Patel as AIFF president, the reason being that elections which were due in December 2020 weren’t held. The Supreme Court then appointed a three- member Committee of Administrators (CoA), headed by former judge AR Dave, to manage the affairs of the AIFF. The other two members include former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi and Bhaskar Ganguly, a former captain of the Indian football team.
The Court empowered the CoA to provide its inputs to facilitate the adoption of the Constitution of the AIFF under the directions of the Court after considering suggestions/objections. The CoA was also directed to prepare the electoral college for the purpose of conducting elections to the Executive Committee in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as proposed subject to further directions of this Court.
The CoA had received nearly 215 comments from objectors, including the State Associations and FIFA-AFC. The CoA accepted nearly 98% of the objections. The CoA has interacted with a delegation of the FIFA which visited India.
Meanwhile, the CoA came out with a 26/27 days schedule for elections, of which results will be declared on August 28 or 29th.
While all this was going on reports surfaced that CoA had earlier last week accused Patel of arranging letters from FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) threatening a ban on India. Within a week we saw a suspension from FIFA.
Football history in India has for the last three decades saw two top politicians helming the affairs. Between 1988 to 2009, Congress’ Priyaranjan Dasmunshi headed the federation, after him, Patel, took over as the president. Patel then was the president of the Western India Football Association and vice-president of AIFF.
According to several reports, Patel had claimed that he took the post reluctantly, but he continued in the position for more than a decade till the Supreme Court literally ended his stint by appointing a CoA. Patel even went on to acquire a seat in the most powerful body of Football in the world, the FIFA council.
However, sport journalists say while Patel climbed the stairs of success, not much happened for the Indian Football scene, today Indian football stands below 100.
A senior sport journalist said, “The political interference in football has caused a lot of problems, they rarely thought about sports, while in most countries sports bodies are independent, but in India, there’s a lot of government interference. There’s no problem with government interference, but political interference is bad and visible. Government is the biggest funder for sports activities and hence it has to interfere, the time has come to limit political interference, or else we will end up embarrassing ourselves in the international sports fraternity. Today it is football. other sports will soon follow.”
The sports fraternity is hopeful that with elections for AIFF ending in August, a new committee will be formed and the suspension will be lifted. But most of them agree that this suspension will have its impact that will last long in a bad way.
Repeated attempts to contact Patel, via phone calls and messages got us no response.