FIFA bans India, leaves fans in shock as a result of which under-17 World Cup cannot be staged in Bhubaneswar, Madgao, and Navi Mumbai in October


FIFA bans India, leaves fans in shock as a result of which under-17 World Cup cannot be staged in Bhubaneswar, Madgao, and Navi Mumbai in October

FIFA bans India

Like a bad dream jolts anyone, news on Tuesday morning that the Bureau of the FIFA Council (world football body) had decided to suspend the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect shook everyone up.

This was due to influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA statutes. The FIFA communication made it clear:  “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once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs.”

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For millions of football fans at home who were craving to watch the postponed FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 in India from October 11 to 30 this year, the ban comes as awful news. The tournament cannot currently be held in India because of the ban. Matches were slated to be held in Bhubaneswar, Margao, and Navi Mumbai. 

“FIFA is assessing the next steps with regard to the tournament and will refer the matter to the Bureau of the Council if and when necessary. 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,” FIFA statement said.

For years, the crisis in the AIFF has been brewing. The AIFF is supposed to be a democratically elected body.  Everyone knows how Praful Patel flouted norms and continued as AIFF President beyond the prescribed tenure. Though he was eased out, and the AIFF was placed under a CoA (Committee of Administrators), it has still been riddled with a lot of issues.

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The redrafting of the AIFF constitution was done over three years ago. That it was confined to cold storage for years is mysterious. Had the revised constitution been cleared and the draft approved by FIFA, an elected body would have been in place in the AIFF. Frankly speaking, the common man is least concerned about who runs (or ruins) football in India. The fans’ interest is in the sport and he wants to watch good football.

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Will India still host the FIFA under-17 World Cup?

FIFA bans India
FIFA bans India

At a time when we have the Durand Cup in Kolkata and a few other venues plus the national team also playing matches at home and abroad, the ban comes as very bad news.  It means the national team, senior or junior, cannot play any match. 

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When India hosted the FIFA under-17 World Cup for boys in 2017, it was a huge hit. The connection between fans and football had increased. One thought it would result in a sort of movement at home wherein more play would take to the sport. To a large extent, it did fire up young boys and girls, and they took to the “Beautiful Sport” with relish. Sadly, the Covid pandemic struck in March 2020 and many young, budding players could not even step onto the field for months.

This time around, the Indian junior team has been preparing for a long for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. This will be a blow to a whole lot of girls as the tournament now appears off and there is no guarantee of the team being allowed to play. To say that a miracle needs to happen for things to be set in order would be improper. In the context of the current issue which has led to a ban from FIFA, the Sports Ministry is well aware of the implications. For its part, the Ministry has been supporting football massively and if it expects transparency in the functioning of the AIFF, it is a just demand.

Then again, in the current situation, it is the Sports Ministry ably led by Anurag Thakur which has to do the fire-fighting. What has ruffled FIFA’s feathers is undue influence from third parties. Those who follow sports politics in India know how some overzealous lawyers are using courts of law to do the damage.

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It is a matter of shame that prominent federations in India like football, hockey, table tennis, and a few more are under a CoA (Committee of Administrators). There is huge uncertainty in the Indian Olympic Association as well, what with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also unhappy with the turn of events at home. FIFA is right when it says private members cannot be para-trooped into the AIFF executive. As per the National Sports Code, athletes need to have up to 25 percent representation in the executive.

One cannot jump the gun and suddenly decide that a former Indian player will make a good AIFF president because he has played football at the highest level. Going by the statutes of the IOC, there are Athletes Commissions in place in world bodies. An NSF (national sports federation) like Hockey India has former players on its board. So does the AFI (Athletics Federation of India).

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