Ah, the All India Football Federation. Trust them to keep entertainment levels high; the fact that there is no actual football happening is rather irrelevant. This past week, the last four days especially, has seen the universe descend into the most Indianfootbally state it has ever been in (arguably).
Saturday evening: Igor Stimac – on the back of three back-to-back wins and qualification to the Asian Cup – gives a sensational interview to a group of journalists. Without going through the AIFF media department, as is the norm. Among other things (a lot of other things), he questions the timing of the appointment of the Committee of Administrators and bemoans the fact that they have not yet started his contract renewal talk.
In his own words, because there’s nothing quite like it: “We might have problems very soon if these elections are not held sooner than later if we do not start organizing ourselves which is impossible as I see now.”
The problem he was talking about was basically FIFA looking unkindly at federations where there’s been a political intervention. Like India’s neighbors, Pakistan, who have been banned.
Monday evening: Speaking of nothing, the CoA appoints an advisory committee to “advise and assist them on day-to-day operations” (a committee to advise another committee which was set up to provide advice. Bureaucracy: got to love it).
Ranjit Bajaj, Delhi FC owner and staunch critic of the previous regime, is named chairman. He is also given charge of integrity matters. There are 11 others, entrusted with everything from logistics to legal to finance, many of them known for expressing their criticism of the Praful Patel’s administration. All this while most members of the Patel administration remained in their posts.
Earlier that day, the AIFF had announced that their general secretary Kushal Das had gone on ‘medical leave’. Indefinitely.
In case you did not know, last month Bajaj had lodged a sexual harassment complaint against Das with the National Commission of Women, and had written to the ethics committees of both FIFA and AFC. The AIFF’s integrity officer had then given Das a clean chit, calling the allegations “frivolous and devoid of truth”.
Tuesday afternoon: A very high-level delegation from FIFA and AFC lands in India to assess the situation … just why did India’s highest court appoint a CoA?
Tuesday evening: Jaydeep Basu, senior journalist and a member of the advisory committee (‘media and communication matters’) put this out on Twitter:
A team in Asian Cup qlfs did not depend on skills alone. An astrologers’ co. was paid Rs. 16 lakh of fed money by an official to ensure team good luck. Later the co address was found fake. But the team won. Official was asked to go on leave. How interesting @IndianFootball
– Jaydeep Basu (@jaydeepbasu) June 21, 2022
(What does anyone even say to that ?!)
Tuesday night: Reports come in that the advisory committee has been disbanded. It lasts for around 24 hours … East Bengal have held on to sponsors for longer.
There are two conflicting reports, though, on the reasons behind the disbandment and neither bodes well for the CoA. One suggests that the CoA decided it was not needed and disbanded it before the FIFA-AFC delegation even met them (underscores their … decisiveness?) While another suggests FIFA-AFC asked them to do it (underscores their understanding of the regulations they need to abide by?).
On Wednesday, the delegation is set to meet the union sports minister with another round of talks with the CoA scheduled for Thursday. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left wondering if this week could get any more Indianfootbally.