The inevitable happened when the world’s apex football body FIFA, suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on 15 August, "due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA statutes". FIFA requires all football federations to be free from outside legal and political interference. The AIFF was found to be in breach of this rule when politician Praful Patel continued as the federation’s president beyond his term, which ended in December 2020. FIFA had warned the AIFF several times about a looming suspension.
Fresh elections had not been held at the time, and Patel had remained in his position until the Supreme Court ousted him in May this year. FIFA has found the state of affairs to be a serious transgression of its laws, and stated that the suspension is effective immediately. Fresh elections are due to be held on 28 August. The current state of affairs is a blow for Indian football, with the most notable casualty being the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, due to be held here in October. As things stand now, India will not be allowed to host the event. But that’s not all: Indian national teams can’t take part in international competitive games or friendlies, including scheduled friendlies against Singapore and Vietnam in September.
The suspension affects Indian football clubs too: Gokulam Kerala will not be able to participate at the Asian Women’s Club Championship later this month: ATK Mohun Bagan will also not be able to play in the AFC Cup inter-zone playoffs semifinals in early September. If the suspension continues, then India’s participation in the prestigious AFC Asian Cup next year will also be thrown into doubt. This is a major blow, given the Indian team’s euphoria when it qualified for the tournament in June.
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FIFA has left the door ajar for the AIFF to sort out the mess as soon as possible. “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once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF executive committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs,” said FIFA. It added that the body is in 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.” Meanwhile, Supreme Court justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna will be hearing a special plea from the government to settle the matter today.
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