Indian football bodies bicker off the pitch

In Indian sports, the backroom stories are sometimes more fascinating than the game itself. They have their share of intrigue, mystery, plots and subplots.

Published: 13th September 2023 01:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th September 2023 01:02 AM   |  A+A-

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) logo used for representative purpose.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) logo used for representational purpose only. (Photo | AIFF website)

In Indian sports, the backroom stories are sometimes more fascinating than the game itself. They have their share of intrigue, mystery, plots and subplots. The Indian football team for the Asian Games has its share of suspense and drama. The sports ministry made an exception to its rules to clear the men’s and women’s football teams for the Games. The Sports Authority of India and the ministry had several discussions with the All India Football Federation, which assured them that the best team would go. This even led to a tussle between the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president and the AIFF chief, who is also the action CEO of the IOA. The IOA president insisted that sports ministry rules should not be relaxed for anyone. However, the ministry finally gave clearance, relaxing its norms.

But with the Indian Super League releasing fixtures that clashed with the Asian Games, many Indian Super League (ISL) clubs refused to release players on dates outside the FIFA window. There was a twist to the tale on Monday as well. The AIFF did not release nine members of the India team that played in the King’s Cup in Thailand for an extra day because they were negotiating with the clubs.

Now, after so much commotion, the AIFF is planning to send a second-string side to the Asian Games. The clubs felt that the AIFF was diverting from its original plan to send the U-23 team for the Games. The calendar for the year is more or less fixed at the beginning of the season. If the Asian Games were a priority, the AIFF could have worked with the stakeholders to devise a plan to accommodate the Asian Games and the ISL. Postponing the latter now would also lead to a late finish and clash with the Indian Premier League. The ISL is run by FSDL, where Reliance is the majority stakeholder. Viacom 18, also Reliance’s, has the media rights for ISL and digital rights for IPL.

This is a poor reflection on the newly elected members of the AIFF . What could have been planned much earlier was left for late. This augurs poorly for AIFF and the ISL clubs, who could have adjusted or released players for ten days. It would have been prudent for the AIFF to focus on improving rankings in Asia at least and qualify automatically rather than demand exceptions.

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