All India Football Federation (AIFF) acting General Secretary Sunando Dhar expressed his concern for the recent ban by FIFA and feels that the game’s stakeholders in the country must learn lessons and follow “due process” in the future, like holding elections on time.
Earlier, the world football governing body FIFA had suspended AIFF for “undue influence by third parties” which was revoked after the Supreme Court of India dissolved the Committee of Administrators (CoA) constituted. The judgment came after the ouster of Praful Patel as the head of the national federation for not holding polls due in December 2020.
“Hopefully, this should be the first and last suspension of the AIFF. We should have followed the process correctly. We should not bypass due process,” Dhar told PTI when asked about the lessons the country should learn from the whole episode. General Secretary feels that now AIFF should never come to the point where FIFA or the AFC can even think of suspending India.
“But, getting the suspension lifted in a quick turnaround time of 11 days was hugely satisfying,” Dhar added.
Dhar said that the new draft constitution of the AIFF is still a work in progress but felt in the final form, it could be a blueprint for other national sports federations also.
He stated,” The constitution is still a work in progress, not yet finalized. I don’t think there would be too many major changes but there could be minor changes in the final constitution. Minor points which do not fall within the FIFA statutes or the Sports Code, should not create problems for anyone. The AIFF constitution in the final form can be a model constitution for other NSFs. The doing away of the restrictive clause (regarding the eligibility of the candidates) may affect other cases.“
He mentioned that one of the radical provisions in the draft constitution is the eligibility of the presidential candidate who can be a citizen of India and proposed and seconded by a state association. The other is the co-opting of 25 percent, or six eminent players, with voting rights in a 23-member executive committee.
“FIFA has no issues on the eligibility criteria of the candidate for the president, so it should stay in the final constitution. The same is in the case of eminent players in the executive committee with voting rights. But the provision of having individual members coming in as eminent players is in contrast to the FIFA statutes, and that had to be taken out.“
FIFA was not happy when the Supreme Court allowed 36 eminent players the same as state association representatives in the electoral college for the AIFF polls. The top court later modified its earlier order on an application by the sports ministry which did not want the country to lose the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup due to the ban.
When asked if he had second thoughts about taking up the top job, albeit temporarily, after Kushal Das resigned as the General Secretary, he said, “No. Not at all. The CoA contacted me and they thought I am the most suitable one with a lot of experience in the functioning of AIFF. I thought it was an honor“.
He also feels that Sports Ministry has played a critical role in the collective effort to lift the suspension.
Dhar also informed that the AIFF has invited observers from the FIFA, AFC, Sports Ministry, and Indian Olympic Association for the September 2 elections.
(Inputs from PTI)