Last week, we celebrated 75 years of Independence from former British rule. While this is usually a joyous day celebrated by all Indian citizens, it was also a very sad day for some. Two unfortunate events coincided on August 15th, 2022. First off, 11 men involved in the infamous gang rape of a pregnant muslim woman and the murder of some of her family members, in 2002, were released from jail. Secondly, in a media release, FIFA banned the entire All India Football Federation (AIFF) which is the governing body of football in India, due to 3rd party influence. So, definitely not something to be proud of when our government’s judicial system is not acting properly.
What this means for Indian footballers is that any football team or club from India are not allowed to play any international matches. Domestic leagues and matches can still continue, but no foreign players can be signed. What is more concerning is that India might lose the right to host the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup that is supposed to start on October the 11th, 2022. The Supreme Court have asked the Federal Government to intervene and have the ban removed.
There is still hope for India as another country has not been named yet to host the U17 WC. For now all staff members and players have been told to carry on as planned.
India’s Bad History in Sports
India does not have a squeaky clean image when it comes to professional sports. It was only last month that a gang located in Gujarat was caught running fake cricket games to scam Indian gamblers. Sports betting is a massive growing market in India. So, criminal entities are always trying to find ways to influence the outcomes of matches, so that they can line their pockets with more money.
There have been several cases of cricket match fixing and influencing, over the last couple of decades. Two elite Indian cricketers were caught match fixing: Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja.
And probably the most famous case of match fixing involved the late South African captain, Hansie Cronje who has been in contact with a cricket betting bookie prior to matches.
The Events That Led to the Ban
FIFA ban AIFF due to third party interference. This is because the AIFF is being run by a three-member committee of administrators (CoA). AIFF has been run by CoA since May 18th and was appointed by the supreme court. This was due to Praful Patel, refusing to give up his post as the head of football in India. Patel’s 3rd term officially ended in 2020. His reason for not stepping down was the long situation with the pandemic and a court case regarding the AIFF constitution.
The appointment of this committee (CoA) is where relations with FIFA started to sour. And in short, the CoA is considered third-party influence and this goes against FIFA’s statutes which say that all countries need to manage its affairs independently. FIFA have said that AIFF being ruled by the CoA is a serious violation.
CoA says they are very surprised by this decision and its timing as discussions between the sports ministry, CoA, AFC, AIFF and FIFA were already taking place as per the Supremes Courts’ directives.
Why FIFA Did Not Act in May when CoA Took Control
As CoA has been in control since May 2022 you might wonder why this ban wasn’t enacted until now. FIFA first believed, as they had been informed by CoA themselves regarding this matter, that CoA would not make any larger changes to the AIFF constitution. However, the CoA made major changes to the executive committee of the AIFF.
Additionally, the CoA made changes about the formation of the executive committee, and how the voting rights would be distributed. One of the biggest changes was that 50% of the executive committee would be made up of players. Thus 35 players would have the same voting rights as the 35 state associations. Therefore, this is a clear breach of FIFA rules. Even though, FIFA agreed on 25% player representation, the changes were not recorded or documented anywhere.
One additional change made by the AIFF was the outline of the Indian soccer leagues, regarding relegation and promotion. It was decided, back in 2008, that the ISL would be the top flight division, whereas, the I-League would be demoted as the second division league. Thus, serving as a promotion league for teams to the Indian Super League. However, with the proposed changes, the AIFF seemed to challenge this decision, reopening a discussion over which league would be the premier league and which would be the second division league.
All these changes without any proper administration committee to present or challenge these decisions are what FIFA sees as third-party influence.
What is Needed to Get The Ban Lifted
FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura informed by letter to the acting general secretary of their requirements. In order for the ban to be repealed, a committee of administrators needs to be in place and to take control back from the executive committee.
In other words, India needs to get rid of the CoA that is currently running the AIFF. As soon as an independent committee of administrators is in control of the AIFF, then this will be considered as no longer 3rd party influence. Having players represented equally in an executive committee opens the door for criminal influence, as the aforementioned changes would mean they have equal voting rights as the decision makers. Thus, potentially it could lead to some cases of match fixing for criminal football betting parties.
When, If or How this will happen, we’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out. But as with all legal and bureaucratic procedures, it may take some time.
What Does This Mean For the Future in India?
As of now, only domestic competitions are allowed to go ahead as scheduled. Soccer of football’s popularity in India is on the rise, but it will never be as big as other sports. Even though women’s football is not as popular as men’s football, many were looking forward to the U17 World Cup in India. Furthermore, it was seen as a major event to influence Indian youth to take up the sport. All we can hope for is that, the government will fix this fiasco, so that the Indian soccer revolution does not lose momentum.
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