The end of 2022 was not a happy ending for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as they had a nasty blow from the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) who banned the All India Football Federation on August 16 citing ‘third party’ intervention. The Bureau of the FIFA Council unanimously decided to suspend the All India Football Federation with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes.
Praful Patel had been the AIFF President for 12 years, having completed three four-year terms and was not eligible for any more terms under the laws laid down in India’s National Sports Code. Since no fresh elections were held for the post of AIFF President, the Supreme Court had to step in to appoint a committee of administrators (CoA) to handle the AIFF’s daily functioning. However, the appointment of the CoA later became the major cause for FIFA to ban the AIFF for ‘undue third-party influence’, which went against the FIFA charters. With immediate intervention, the CoA was dissolved, and control was handed over to Sunando Dhar, the acting AIFF secretary general until Kalyan Chaubey was elected.
Kalyan Chaubey, a former Indian goalkeeper was elected as the new President of the All-Indian Football Federation (AIFF). Yet another history in the Indian sports pages.
Chaubey is the first ex-player to hold the position in India’s football governing body in its 85 years of existence. Kalyan Chaubey pipped Indian football legend and former club team-mate Bhaichung Bhutia to the post with a huge margin. Although Chaubey was part of the squad, he never played even a single senior match for the Indian national football team till the end of his career. However, he had a very successful career in the TATA Football Academy.
After retiring from football, Kalyan Chaubey joined politics in 2015 and since then he has been a very active politician. Attention, Kalyan Chaubey became the first ex-footballer to head the All India Football Federation but he is also the third successive politician to be elected president after Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Praful Patel. Now, with the footballers in India, the whole nation is waiting to see whether the former footballer or the present-day politician or a combination of both, will steer AIFF.
Not that the election of Chaubey has put the AIFF into the hands of a politician but either way, AIFF would have been headed by a full-time politician because Bhaichung Bhutia is the one who founded the Hamro Sikkim Party and like Chaubey he also has a fair history of losing in both general, state and local elections multiple times.
Well, Chaubey is more known as a player-President of AIFF than a player-politician President. But his anointment at the office had the former Sports Minister and current Law Minister attending it, which left the people with proof that he is no less than a politician-player president. He well defended himself from the press by asking to give one sports federation where politicians are not involved. He thinks he is known as a footballer first and a politician later, but the reality, the country is yet to experience.
Realising the factor that two non-BJP-ruled states West Bengal and Kerala are the roaring leaders of football in the country Chaubey looks a bit worried in his talk to the press. However, it would be a wonderful factor for all to see how Chaubey is going to balance everything.
Unquestionably it wasn’t a pleasant loss for Bhutia as even those who had pledged their support betrayed him, Bhutia managed a solitary vote from Andhra Pradesh though. Although Chaubey wants Bhutia to be part of the core team Bhutia denied a usual political trade.
After becoming the President of AIFF, Chaubey’s immediate priority was the under-17 women’s World Cup. The event was a great success, but the Indian under-17 team has left him unhappy.
Chaubey dreams of targeting every school in India to get better footballers and wants to reach at least one lakh students and bring them to amateur football. But the current existing team has poor facilities to train and excel. As anyone would have done, Chaubey looks all excited too. His dreams are extended to the breadth and width of the country. Has he done anything for the existing team in terms of facility, training, funds, and international exposure is still a wonder. Football in India has miles to go, will Chaubey facilitate it or politicise it? Politicised facilities also may pop up. Being prepared for either adversities or advantages perhaps might be the best policy required for the footballers of India.