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FIFA suspends Indian Football Association

India National Football Team Sunil Chhetri

FIFA suspends the Indian Football Association. Accordingly, India’s teams are not eligible to play. The planned U-17 World Cup for women will also not be able to take place for the time being.

The world football governing body FIFA announced on Monday that it would suspend the Indian Football Association (AIFF) with immediate effect. The decision was “due to improper influence by third parties,” which constitutes a serious violation of FIFA’s statutes, the organization’s governing body said.

The AIFF is currently in a chaotic state. After long-time and former boss Praful Patel stayed in office beyond the maximum term of twelve years without new elections have taken place, he has now had to give up his post. Patel, who has held a number of senior government posts alongside his AIFF post, has led Indian football since 2009. “Indian sport is full of politicians like that,” said sportswriter Norris Pritam, who has worked for various publications on Indian sport for 40 years reported to DW. “Be it football, cricket, athletics or hockey, there have been threats from international federations to other national federations.”

Football India Federation President Praful Patel
Praful Patel (left) led the Indian Football Association for more than twelve years

The new elections are now scheduled to take place on August 28th. The election process began last week after India’s Supreme Court approved an administration-drafted timetable.

No U-17 World Cup in India

The suspension of the AIFF means that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022, which was due to take place in India from 11-30 October, cannot currently be played in the country as planned. Patel was instrumental in awarding the tournament to India. Pritam says there is still a strong belief in the country at the state and societal level that the tournament can go ahead and a solution can be found.

But he added: “It’s a huge blow to Indian football, especially to the girls who have become passionate about football. And internationally, it’s put in a bad light.”

World Football’s governing body is currently reviewing the next steps in relation to the tournament. FIFA said it was in constant contact with the Indian Ministry of Youth and Sport and was confident that a positive outcome could still be achieved. India’s highest court dissolved the AIFF in May and installed a three-member committee to regulate the sport, amend the AIFF’s constitution and conduct elections that have been pending for 18 months.

Gianni Infantino and Praful Patel
Better times: FIFA President Gianni Infantino (left) in 2017 with Praful Patel, who is now at the center of the unrest in Indian football

In response, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) sent a team led by AFC General Secretary Windsor John to meet Indian football stakeholders. They set out a roadmap for the AIFF to amend its bylaws by the end of July and complete elections by September 15 at the latest.

“The suspension will be lifted once the order establishing an Administrative Committee to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee is lifted and the AIFF administration regains full control over the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF,” FIFA said in a statement.

No games for India’s men and women

The ruling also means India’s men’s and women’s national teams will not be able to play junior or senior internationals for the time being. Former men’s captain Bhaichung Bhutia described the suspension as “very tough”. “At the same time, I think it’s a great opportunity to improve our system,” he told Indian sports news outlet Sportstar. “It is very important that everyone involved, the federations, the state federations, and the Ministry of Sport come together to get the system right and all work for the good of the sport.”

According to the FIFA Statutes, the member associations must be free from legal and political interference in their respective countries. FIFA has already suspended other national federations over similar issues. This year alone, Pakistan, Kenya, and Zimbabwe have been excluded.

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