Praful Patel writes to FIFA President Gianni Infantino requesting not to ban India

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A file image of Praful Patel.

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Praful Patel writes to FIFA President Gianni Infantino requesting not to ban India

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SportsCafe Desk

05/24/2022

Praful Patel, who was dismissed as president of the AIFF by the Supreme Court, asked FIFA President Gianni Infantino not to put a ban on the country after the sports organization was placed under a Committee of Administrators. The SC established a three-member CoA to manage the AIFF.

This means that AIFF will be robbed of its powers and raising the door to a FIFA suspension for "foreign influence."  The three-member committee has been tasked with overseeing the AIFF's day-to-day operations until elections under a new constitution are in place.

"I would also like to point out that the Supreme Court has expressed a sense of urgency in resolving all the issues by July 2022.

"I request the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA to not impose a suspension at this stage, but instead to consider this important aspect of the Supreme Court order and enter into a dialogue with the CoA to receive a commitment that the said timelines laid down by the Supreme Court would be respected and strictly followed without allowing for delays on any account," Patel said in his letter to Infantino.

A FIFA suspension at this stage would prevent India from hosting the under-17 women's World Cup, which is set to take place from October 11 to October 30. The 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata next month might also be impacted.

"Noting that the appointment of the CoA by the Supreme Court could be prima facie interpreted by both the AFC and FIFA as a case of undue third-party influence/judicial interference, I fear that a suspension by the AFC and/or FIFA will automatically prevent India and/or Indian clubs and players from participating in any international competitions, and deprive the AIFF of receiving much-needed development funds at a crucial juncture of development for the game in India," Patel said.

"Any suspension of the AIFF would also jeopardize the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers, which will be hosted by India from 8 June 2022 in the football-loving city of Kolkata and for which all preparations have been completed. Further, the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup is scheduled to be held in three states across India from 11-30 October 2022, the first time ever a FIFA women's competition be held in India, and it is widely expected to boost the women's game in the country." FIFA's zero-tolerance stance on third-party influence is well known to Patel.

"I also note that the AFC and FIFA have a zero-tolerance attitude towards undue third-party interference/influence and several member associations (Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Zimbabwe, Kenya, to name a few) have been suspended to restore their autonomy and that a different standard cannot be applied in the case of the AIFF. "I am also cognizant that the aforesaid timelines set by the Supreme Court -- though well-meaning and in the interests of an expedited process -- may not be acceptable by the AFC or FIFA." FIFA's zero-tolerance stance on third-party influence is well known to Patel.

Patel's third term in office ended in December 2020 but he had clung to an SC case, which remained pending since 2017, to extend his executive committee's term while refusing to hold elections till the issue of a new constitution was settled by the top court. "Further, noting that the draft AIFF Statutes prepared by the ombudsmen/CoA and circulated to the stakeholders need to be in alignment with the AFC and FIFA Statutes, it is my duty to request you to expedite your feedback to the same, so that all comments can be tabulated per the Supreme Court order and placed before it by 30 June 2022," he further said in the letter.

"I also appeal to experienced legal teams of the AFC and FIFA to guide the CoA, if approached and need be, in the revision of the AIFF statutes."

The SC formed a CoA, led by retired top court judge AR Dave, on May 18 to oversee the AIFF's business and draught a constitution in accordance with the National Sports Code and model guidelines. Dr SY Qureshi, former Chief Election Commissioner, and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian football team, will join Justice (retd) Dave on the CoA, according to a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and PS Narasimha.

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