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Why did FIFA ban India?

The highest governing body of world football FIFA decided to ban India on August 15 because of “undue influence from third parties.” The decision from FIFA sent shockwaves around Asian football and the topmost administrative authority in Indian football, the All India Football Federation (AIFF), was suspended indefinitely for a series of breaches and grave mistakes concerning FIFA’s constitution.

In the immediate aftermath of the ban, India’s right to hold the U-17 Women’s World Cup was snatched straight away. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place between October 11 and 30 in 2022.

In a statement, FIFA had mentioned that it was in direct contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India. Eventually, the ban lasted only 11 days and was lifted on August 26. But why did FIFA ban India in the first place and what events led to it? Find out:

Why did FIFA ban India football federation AIFF?

The decision to ban India was passed by the Bureau of the FIFA Council. FIFA’s decision to ban Indian football and suspend the AIFF was explained in its letter to the organisation. Several reasons were outlined behind the suspension of Indian football. However, the most important causes are:

Third party influence and interference

Influence from third party in the running of the AIFF’s daily affairs is said to be the biggest reason why FIFA were forced to ban India and suspend the organisation. They noted that the Supreme Court of India had ordered the AIFF administration to hold the elections before the constitution had even been finalised. As such, there was expected to be an interim mandate of three months before the constitution was finalised.

It was also expected that the defined electoral college would include several former players who had represented India. FIFA even found signs to believe that the Committee of Administrators (COA) would continue to play a role in running football in the country even during the interim period when the constitution would be drafted.

This was perceived to be a clear and “flagrant violation” of their rules that safeguard organisations from third party influence (by the political or judicial system of a country).

Deviations from FIFA’s original roadmap

The initial Committee of Administrators of the AIFF included three members – Dr. SY Quraishi, Justice (retd) AR Dave and Bhaskar Ganguly. They were tasked with preparing a draft constitution and inviting comments and suggestions from the various stakeholders involved, including FIFA, before submitting it in front of the Supreme Court.

The highest governing body of football in the world FIFA noted that there was several deviation from the originally intended roadmap and plan. Perhaps, the biggest change of all, was the decision to include 36 distinguished footballers in the electoral college and they would make up 50% of the 72 total voters in the body that was supposed to vote in the AIFF elections.

FIFA wanted the eminent players’ representation in the electoral college to be limited to a maximum of 25% and not any more.

Events that led to the FIFA ban

The decision to ban Indian football did not take place overnight. In fact, several setbacks and a chain of calamitous events led to it. It all began when erstwhile AIFF president Praful Patel, who was also a FIFA council member, refused to step down from his position as the head of Indian football.

He had occupied the position of president for 13 years and to say that a change in administration was long overdue would be an understatement. Patel’s most recent excuse to not give up power and exit the AIFF was the long-drawn-out pandemic, coupled with a court case regarding the AIFF constitution.

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In the end, the Supreme Court intervened on May 18 after the matter was taken to the highest judicial body in the country. They removed Patel from his position and appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators to run the AIFF on an interim basis. The way in which this COA body was set up is where the contentious relationship between Indian football and FIFA began, who kept a close eye on proceedings, and that eventually led to the ban on August 15.

When FIFA initially started following the case, they did not find any grounds to dismiss the COA immediately as it was led to believe that the committee would not be making any significant changes to the AIFF constitution. However, the release of the first draft of the constitution suggested that they had tampered with the executive body of the AIFF, the democratically elected committee among state associations that runs the affairs of the All Indian Football Federation, as well as the way the executive committee would be formed, and who could vote or be voted for in its formation.

The COA also made several changes in their determination what would be India’s top football league, how promotion and relegation would work, and also in determining the guidelines that AIFF would solely run the topmost football league in the nation.

While FIFA initially decided to hold off on the ban and take stock of the situation, this series of drastic changes to how the AIFF functioned, without any scope of an executive committee present to ratify or challenge these decisions, were considered as third-party interference by the world governing body of football.

How did FIFA lift the suspension on Indian football?

Fortunately, things were resolved before it could get much worse for Indian football. FIFA decided to lift its suspension after 11 days of ban, on August 26. The decision was overturned after the Supreme Court decided to dissolve the Committee of Administrators (COA). The COA’s interference in the matters of the AIFF was FIFA’s primary cause of contention and dissolving it as well as the resolution to hold as quickly as possible prove to be the deal-breaker.

The Bureau of the FIFA Council, which comprises president Gianni Infantino, as well as the heads of the several confederations announced the decision to lift the suspension.

“The decision was taken after FIFA received confirmation that the mandate of the committee of administrators that was set up to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee had been terminated and that the AIFF administration had regained full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs. FIFA and the AFC will continue to monitor the situation and will support the AIFF in organizing its elections in a timely manner,” FIFA said in a statement.

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It added: “As a consequence, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 scheduled to take place on 11-30 October 2022 will be held in India as planned.”

Other countries banned by FIFA before

CountryYear
Iraq2008
Nigeria2014
Guatemala2016
Kuwait and Indonesia2015
Pakistan2017 and 2021
Kenya2022

India are far from being the first country to be banned by FIFA over ”third party interference.” Several other countries, including Pakistan in 2017 and 2021 and Nigeria in 2014 were banned from FIFA for the same reason.

FAQs

Which is the topmost league in Indian football?

The Indian Super League (ISL) holds the official status as the topmost football league in the country.

Who is the president of FIFA?

Gianni Infantino is the president of FIFA.

Who was newly elected as the president of AIFF?

Former Indian goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey was elected as the president after the AIFF elections on 2 September 2022. He contested the elections against legendary striker Bhaichung Bhutia, but won by a strong 33–1 margin.

Was the U-17 Women’s World Cup finally held in India?

Eventually, the U-17 Women’s World Cup was successfully held as planned originally. Spain became the champions after defeating Colombia in the final.

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