Indian Football Is Facing International Isolation Due To Suspension
Indian sport has been rocked even as the dust settles from a triumphant Commonwealth Games campaign. As Indian football is facing international isolation after FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on August 15 for not following FIFA guidelines and for “third party interference” since the AIFF is currently managed by a Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), which is the sporting equivalent of President's Rule. India's hosting rights for the Under-17 Women's World Cup, which is scheduled to commence in October, as well as the participation of the Gokulam Kerala FC women's team in the ongoing AFC Women's Club Championship are both immediately affected by the suspension. The decision by FIFA to ban the Indian Football Association has raised questions about the sport's future in India and the individuals who will play in it.
Praful Patel's third term as president of the AIFF comes to a conclusion in December 2020. As per the Sports Code, a federation chief cannot continue more than 12 years in office. However, Patel persisted in extending his terms without elections until the issue of a new AIFF constitution was resolved at the Apex Court, citing a lawsuit that has been pending in the Supreme Court since 2017. On May 18, SC passed a verdict forcing Patel and his executive committee to quit while appointing a three-member CoA to run the daily affairs of AIFF. It included former CEC SY Quraishi, former top court judge AR Dave, and former Indian football team captain Bhaskar Ganguly. Attempts to strengthen the AIFF's governance have been made for months by the government, judges, and administrators, including the writing of stringent guidelines. Although many issues were resolved, the participation of players in the AIFF decision-making process was a major point of disagreement and may have played a role in the ban. The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators gave players a 50% representation in AIFF’s executive committee as co-opted members, as against 25% recommended by FIFA. The state associations, which together make up the AIFF, were concerned that such a move would weaken them and were against it. FIFA intervened quickly, suspending the AIFF and calling for the CoA to be annulled while blaming third-party influence.
The immediate consequence is that India has, as of now, lost the right to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 which was to be held between October 11-30 and tickets were just lately put up for sale. In the scenario of the event being shifted out of the country, India’s participation will be under a serious threat since they only qualified as the host nation. The senior team of India might be prohibited from competing in international competitions, while clubs might be prohibited from competing in continental competitions. The teams might also be unable to bring in any more foreign players.
In spite of the findings, the Centre on Tuesday urgently requested an early hearing before the Supreme Court. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Delhi High Court's directive to transfer control of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to a CoA should be implemented as is. The matter will be heard on Monday by the proper Bench, the supreme court announced. FIFA has added, however, that the "suspension will be lifted once an order to establish a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been annulled and the AIFF administration fully regains control of the AIFF's daily operations. FIFA is determining the next measures regarding the competition and, if and when necessary, will report the issue to the Bureau of the Council. The fact that FIFA is in contact with the Indian government for a speedy settlement adds fuel to the fire of optimism.
In a game of smoke and mirrors, FIFA’s decision to suspend the AIFF could lead to an immediate crisis and the move could harm India’s long-term interests. The fact that Indian football is facing international isolation is embarrassing. A travesty will also occur if the suspension-related bad governance causes the athletes, coaches, referees, and other sport participants to suffer. Early action should have been made to prevent the majority from being negatively impacted by the activities of a small, incompetent group. It is difficult for Indian football fans to feel left down by everyone concerned. This was an opportunity for the AIFF, which had been governed by two politicians for the previous 34 years, to clean house through significant changes. The state associations, with a few exceptions, have been inactive for many years. One could argue that the CoA's strategy could have been more realistic. FIFA also had the option of considering the interests of the players rather than defending its own. Football in India has a significant governance issue. FIFA suspending the player won't fix the issue.