By the Supreme Court decision appointing the Committee of Administrators (CoA), Praful Patel, former president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), said he would ask Fifa president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samura not to ban India for third-party interference. Such a possibility exists as the CoA has been asked to run the AIFF by the Supreme Court.
I will call them tomorrow and ask them to give me a free pass. This will be my personal request: Please try to give India two months to hold elections and continue playing, Patel said during a Zoom interaction with elected reporters on Sunday. Patel is a member of the Fifa Council, the world organization’s main governing body.
If Fifa strips AIFF of its recognition, Patel said the decision could be known this week — the Asian Cup qualifiers next month, the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October and all international soccer for clubs and countries will stop. Please don’t undermine Fifa’s power to sometimes make drastic decisions, Patel said, noting that the world soccer body is run by systems and in 2017 threatened to ban former world champions Spain.
Lawyers (representing AIFF) have pointed out to the esteemed court all possible scenarios, he said.
Patel also said that if he was approached for advice, he would tell the CoA to hold an election as soon as possible. Delaying this issue would have disastrous consequences. We’ve seen years and years of CoA running the show at BCCI.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, objections or proposals for a new AIFF statute must be submitted by June 30 and summarized by July 15. The CoA, which will be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Anil R Dave, has also been asked to prepare voter rolls. The order states that elections must be held promptly after the constitution is finalized.
Having led the AIFF since December 2008, Patel said his team had laid the foundations of Indian soccer and would be willing to help. If there is any regret, it is that a good transition to new officials was not possible under him. Patel said he never anticipated that such a situation would arise, and that he hoped the Supreme Court would require an election in two months. The AIFF would push for it. The executive committee would continue to work until the election, and the possibility of a bant on Fifa’s part would not need to be discussed, he said.
Patel cited a court ruling to explain why the AIFF executive committee continued to serve beyond December 2020, when his term ended, and he was not eligible for re-election after serving three four-year terms. The implication of the stay order is that despite the expiration of the four-year term, the executive committee continues to manage the federation’s affairs, he said, citing a court order issued last week. He said this means that members of the executive committee continue to run the federation’s affairs thanks to a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Delhi High Court ruling that overturned the 2016 election.
If we were to resign in December 2020, who would we hand over the management of AIFF to? Responsible people should behave responsibly, even if it draws criticism, he said. Patel said AIFF went to the Supreme Court in November 2020, a month before the election, because it was waiting for a response from the Supreme Court on SY Quraishi’s petition for more time to draft a new constitution. Quraishi said the draft constitution would be submitted in January 2020. AIFF claims it has not heard from the high court.
The constitution was due eight weeks after the Supreme Court appointed Quraishi and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly in November 2017. If it had been submitted even 40 weeks later, things would have been different…If the Supreme Court had given us a directive in 2020, things would have been different, Patel said.
Quraishi and Ganguli are members of the CoA.
Calling himself a cautious man, Patel said AIFF sought legal advice and received a response that holding elections while the new constitution was being drafted amounted to contempt of court. There was no way AIFF could have hastened the new constitution, he said. It was not my fault that the Supreme Court failed to give a date for our petition. Perhaps that was not high on their list of priorities. Of course, Covid contributed to the delay, he said.
To the accusation that he was holding out because he wanted another four-year term on the Fifa Council, Patel said that while it was an honor to be elected to the Council, he was an MP and would be filing this month for the nomination to the Rajya Sabha.
During my tenure, Praful Patel never commissioned anything from AIFF, he said. Also, under him the federation was run according to the highest standards of financial and corporate ethics.
Regardless of who leads the team, Patel said the path agreed upon for club soccer will be followed, including qualifying for the 2022-23 I-League champions for the Indian Super League. HT reported on May 12. It’s all documented. Our partners (FSDL, the company that runs the ISL) resisted, but I told them we couldn’t have a closed league forever.