Absolute chaos would be an understatement to describe Indian football’s mess. Perhaps the appropriate analogy is—like most natural disasters of the modern day, this too is man-made. What’s worse, there were enough clues to indicate that the international football federation (FIFA) would ban the All India Football Federation (AIFF) at any time.
It was imminent the day the Supreme Court agreed with the Committee of Administrators (CoA) constitution that allowed 50% eminent players—36 in number—to be included in the electoral college along with 36 state units to vote during the elections. FIFA had been against this particular point ever since because it was against their ‘statutes’, and they had told stakeholders to remove it or reduce it to 25%. What transpired between CoA, the sports ministry, FIFA and other stakeholders is shrouded in mystery, but the way things panned out, there seems to be a communication gap between them.
After the ban, the ministry wanted the provision of 36 players removed and had discussions with the CoA on this. In the end, as expected, FIFA banned AIFF and said the U-17 Women’s World Cup cannot be held without recognition. FIFA also said it has to repeal the CoA as it is tantamount to ‘third party interference’. On Tuesday, there were indications that AIFF elections would be held with 36 state units.
There was an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday where the ministry sought time until Monday. If viewed from a distance, this was a mess brewing since 2017 when the court tasked former bureaucrat, S Y Quraishi, and former India football captain, Bhaskar Ganguly, as administrator and ombudsman, respectively, to draft the AIFF constitution.
The draft constitution was submitted in a sealed envelope in January 2020. The then AIFF chief Praful Patel, whose 12-year term ended in December 2020, continued in office citing a pending case in court. What seems baffling is that the stakeholders are ready to tweak the contentious clause now, something that could have been done earlier. In the end, players, coaches and referees are most affected because, according to FIFA, they are ineligible to play.