FIFA has banned the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) which means India will not be allowed to compete in any FIFA or Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competitions for this indefinite period of time.
Why was India Banned?
This third party was the Indian Supreme Court who had disbanded the AIFF earlier this year in May, due to their delayed elections for new leadership that were scheduled for December 2020. FIFA and the AFC responded with an ultimatum that would include an amendment to AIFF statutes and planned elections for 15 September 2022 latest.
The Supreme Court had set up a 3-man Committee of Administrators (CoA) that included a retired Supreme Court judge and on 3 August, the Supreme Court ruled that the AIFF needed to conduct a swift election. The CoA also are now controlling the Federation per Supreme Court orders over the AIFF Executive Committee.
These actions banned the AIFF because according to FIFA rules, member national federations like the AIFF for India must be free from legal and political interference in their respective countries. Currently, the Supreme Court appears to be in control of the AIFF.
When did the Ban Happen?
The ban happened 15 August.
What are the immideate ramifications of this ban?
The immediate ramifications are that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 that was scheduled to be hosted by India in October is removed from India for now.
In addition to this, Indian National Teams for either men’s or women’s and for all age groups will not be able to play in FIFA or AFC matches while the ban is in place.
This also applies to Indian clubs playing in AFC or FIFA competitions.
There will still be able to be competition within India though, so the domestic club season will continue, such that the Durand Cup and Indian Super League will still be played.
What needs to happen to lift the ban?
FIFA and the AFC had created a road map with Indian Football representatives following the issues earlier this May with Supreme Court interference. They had set up a path for the AIFF to hold elections and truly regain their independent and free governing status.
However, following this August Supreme Court interference, FIFA in conjuction with the AFC issued a statement: “AIFF was to call for a special general assembly in the first week of August 2022 to approve the new statute worked upon with FIFA, the AFC and the Indian football community. Unfortunately, we have been informed that the Supreme Court’s hearing held yesterday on the situation of the AIFF allegedly resulted in deviations to the aforementioned roadmap. If this is considered to be true, it would irrefutably jeopardise the mutual understanding which was displayed so far on the steps forward.“
Therefore, in order for the AIFF to have their suspension lifted, the AIFF must regain their free and independent administrative function and thus their executive committee needs to be reinstated and replace the CoA. This is what FIFA wrote: “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.”
Who is to blame for this debacle?
According to many across the Indian Football community, the main person to blame is Praful Patel, the former AIFF President. He stayed in office past his term without elections and this is what propelled the Supreme Court to make their decisions and cause their interference.
Many in Praful Patel’s opposition accuse him of seeking the President of the AIFF office for life, without challengers. He had been in charge for 13 years, despite there being a limit on only three four year terms.
Praful Patel is also the person who is alleged to have written the letter that would ban the AIFF from FIFA and it is rumored he was even part of the FIFA panel that unanimously banned the AIFF from FIFA.
And now, the CoA has filed a petition of contempt of the court against Praful Patel due to his activities to undermine the Supreme Court’s rulings. In addition to working from with inside FIFA and through media channels, Praful Patel also has been engaging with the state football associations in India to use their collective force to upend the CoA control of the AIFF to demand a re-implementation of AIFF Executive Committee control.
But, the Supreme Court still interfered in the AIFF affairs which is clearly against the rules. Therefore, despite Praful Patel allegedly being in the wrong, the Supreme Court is completely in the wrong for interfering so much.
However, how is a country supposed to enforce their own national federation’s rules if the national federation does not? Unfortunately, the proper channels often lead to inaction for many years. Nonetheless, the proper channels must be gone through because or else, you leave federation statuses up to the whims of politics, and many countries are very authoritarian. This would risk the independence and freedom of national football associations/federations in the future if India, a democratic and republic, would be allowed to have third parties via legal or politics interfere in their own association football federation.
An agreement needs to be reached fast so that the AIFF might be allowed to negotiate to continue hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup this October, and so that all the other national teams and clubs can continue to develop with competition from outside India.
As of now, it appears that the quickest way would be to put the AIFF administration back into power.
But, in the long term, if some of these actors are this bad and corrupt, it may be best to continue this disagreement until a fair agreement is reached.
In my opinion, I would bring the AIFF back in charge, host the U-17 World Cup, and then re-engage with this power struggle in Novemeber during the 2022 FIFA World Cup when India will not be playing meaningful international football much.