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Shattered Dreams: 2 Clubs Stand To Lose the Most From FIFA’s Suspension of AIFF

Gokulam Kerala women's and ATK Mohun Bagan are the two teams worst affected by FIFA's suspension of AIFF.

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Edited By :Ahamad Fuwad

Twenty-three players of Gokulam Kerala FC’s women’s team, along with their coaching staff, travelled over 3000 km to Uzbekistan to participate in the AFC Women's Club Championship.

Standing on the brink of history, a mix of euphoria and excitement prevailed in the camp. Unfortunately, all of that vanished into thin air when they learnt from media reports that FIFA has suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF), which renders them ineligible to compete.

The players continued to train in Tashkent, unsure of their future. They trained because that’s the only way to keep their spirits up.
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On 16 August, FIFA suspended the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) owing to “undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA statutes.”

Currently, the operations of the AIFF are being looked after by a court-appointed three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA), which the global football governing body views as a ‘third-party influence.'

Most of the discussion regarding the impact of the suspension has been on India potentially losing hosting rights for the upcoming U-17 Women’s World Cup, but two clubs, Gokulam Kerala FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, have already been adversely impacted by the suspension as both the teams cannot participate in continental tournaments.

It is especially worse for Gokulam Kerala FC, given that their women's team qualified for the apex competition in Asia, the AFC Women's Club Championship.

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“Suspension Has Put All Our Plans in Limbo”

Kevin Kishore, Gokulam Kerala FC’s team manager, apprised The Quint of the women’s team’s situation saying that the team morale has been good, and the players are being updated as soon as the management receives some information.

Speaking on the suspension of AIFF and the current situation of the team, Kishore tells The Quint, “It is the players and clubs that are penalised for no fault of ours.”

“Bringing a team to Tashkent is not an easy task. The money we spent will go into the drain and all the hard work of our staff for two months lay wasted.”
Kevin Kishore, Team Manager, Gokulam Kerala FC
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Earlier, the team management had sent a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, requesting that the ban be lifted and that they be allowed to compete in Asia's premier club competition.

After the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing in the matter on 17 August to 22 August, the Union sports ministry sent a letter to AFC and FIFA, requesting them to allow the team to participate in the tournament.

The team management has also sent a separate letter to AFC and FIFA, requesting the same.

Kishore told The Quint that they are leaving no stone unturned to try and play the tournament.

"The suspension has put all our plans in limbo. We have a strong team with seven national team players and four foreigners. We have been training for last two months.”
Kevin Kishore
Gokulam Kerala women's and ATK Mohun Bagan are the two teams worst affected by FIFA's suspension of AIFF.

Gokulam Kerala women's team qualified for the AFC Women's Club Championship.

(Photo: PTI)

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The team management is trying their best to help the players with their physical and mental health, by keeping up training, taking them on city tours and constantly briefing them about the latest developments.

According to ESPN, the club had gone above and beyond to prepare for the AFC Cup – they didn’t participate in the Durand Cup to focus on the AFC Cup and the team management focused more on the women’s team than the men’s team.

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No AFC for The Mariners Too

From a macrocosmic perspective, FIFA's decision will be detrimental to any and every aspect of Indian football. However, most domestic clubs will be able to carry out their operations without any hindrance.

Barring Gokulam Kerala, ATK Mohun Bagan is the other team who will be adversely impacted by the suspension. They had qualified for the inter-zonal playoff semi-finals of the 2022 AFC Cup, which was supposed to be held on 7 September in Kolkata. However, with the suspension preventing every Indian team from competing in an international competition organised by FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), ATK Mohun Bagan’s participation has now been jeopardized.

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Speaking to The Quint, an inside source at the club said, “The suspension does not concern other teams but us and our AFC Cup campaign is now shrouded in uncertainty.”

“This is not a competition like the Indian Super League or the Durand Cup where you can participate every year. We qualified for the inter-zonal semi-finals on merit, and now if we cannot play because of AIFF being suspended, it will be unfortunate.”
ATK Mohun Bagan official
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Gokulam Kerala women's and ATK Mohun Bagan are the two teams worst affected by FIFA's suspension of AIFF.

ATK Mohun Bagan will not be able to compete in the AFC Cup unless AIFF's suspension is lifted.

(Photo: PTI)

The suspension also prevents Indian teams from registering overseas players, which has proven to be another major cause of headache for the Kolkata-based side. “We have registered five of our six foreigners, but Dimitri Petratos’ (Australian midfielder) registration is still spending. We cannot complete the process now – FIFA’s portal won’t allow any registrations from Indian teams.”

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Why Did FIFA Suspend AIFF?

According to their official statement, FIFA has suspended AIFF owing to “undue influence from third parties," which in simpler terms, is the appointment of CoA.

This is not a rare occurrence in international football and a plethora of prior examples are available, given that the apex football governing body has always clamped down on external influences over a nation’s football activities. Previously, the federations of Nigeria, Pakistan, Trinidad & Tobago, Zimbabwe, and Kenya faced similar suspensions.

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Understandably, for those who followed the developments closely, this suspension seemed to be imminent. The more pertinent question, however, will be – why did the Supreme Court appoint a CoA in the first place?

In December 2020, the erstwhile AIFF president – Praful Patel – completed his twelve-year tenure in the organisation, which is the maximum term permitted to a National Sports Federation (NSF) chairman by the country’s Sports Code.

The next president was supposed to be decided by election, but only a month before the proposed date, the organisation moved court with an application seeking clarity on certain statutes in the constitution of AIFF. Subsequently, the election was put on hold.

After a year and a half of inactivity, the apex court intervened on 18 May of this year to strip Patel and his executive committee of their administrative responsibilities, appointing a three-member CoA to overlook the football activities – comprising former judge AR Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner Dr SY Quraishi and former Indian men’s football team skipper, Bhaskar Ganguly. The primary objective of the CoA was to assist the court in facilitating the adoption of a new constitution for AIFF, but differences over the composition of the electoral college has led to CoA and the state associations being at loggerheads.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  AIFF   FIFA   AIFF Suspension 

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