CHENNAI: INDIAN football is still shuddering from the jolt it received from the sport's governing body, FIFA, late on Monday. The suspension means India cannot host the Under-17 women's World Cup which was being aggressively promoted as another milestone for the country in terms of hosting international events. Such is its importance that even Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, according to reports, had apprised the Supreme Court on the development and sought an early hearing.
There were multiple indications that a suspension was in the offing and the sports ministry had been trying to defuse the situation. The ministry had discussions with FIFA on Friday as well as on Monday.
According to the ministry, talks with FIFA were positive and discussions were held between FIFA, CoA and the other stakeholders. Even the CoA agreed to do away with the 50 per cent eminent sports person with voting rights for this election.
Since bringing normalcy and hosting the World Cup are their priorities, the ministry is hoping for a positive outcome when the division bench of judges, Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna, take up the matter on Wednesday.
As of now, "The AIFF representative and club teams are therefore no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted. This also means that neither the AIFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from FIFA and/or the AFC." This will affect not just the India team but also numerous other Indian players and officials associated with the game on an international level. The Gokulam FC women's team is apparently waiting in Uzbekistan anxiously for court order.
The decision which the world body took has surprised the CoA. "The Committee of Administrators (CoA) has expressed its surprise and disappointment at the recent turn of events, by dint of which, the All India Football Federation has been suspended by FIFA, the governing body of world football, from August 14, 2022 until further notice, as per a letter from Fatma Samoura, Secretary General, FIFA, on August 15, 2022.
"The CoA is surprised that the FIFA decision has come when extensive discussions were going on for the past few days between all stakeholders, including FIFA-AFC, AIFF, CoA, and the Sports Ministry as per the Order of the Supreme Court...
"In the discussions held among the FIFA-AFC, AIFF, CoA, and the Sports Ministry in the past few days, it was suggested that the present elections of the AIFF Executive Committee may be conducted with the Electoral College consisting of 36 state representatives."
What seems interesting is that hours after the suspension, the CoA is ready to make those necessary changes which the state units were requesting earlier. The fate of the elections supposed to be held on August 28 now is not known either.
Interestingly, Samoura's letter suggests that they had taken this decision amid dialogue. While the letter explicitly suspended AIFF from August 14, they were involved in discussions till August 15.
There is hope too. Some felt that the suspension can be revoked at any time after SC gives clearance to CoA and ministry's affidavits in court. The FIFA letter also indicated that "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."