The storm named ‘Indian Football’

Under Igor Stimac’s tutelage, the Indian football team has played 24 international games. The team faced nine losses, drew nine, and won six. The Croatian gaffer took charge in 2019. The team last won against Nepal in October 2021. In 2022, India lost against Bahrain and Belarus.

Team India’s only remarkable performance under Stimac came when they drew against Qatar in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers. However, the decline happened with draws against low placed Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Soon, COVID caused a major slump. But as everything normalizes, Indian football still faces great challenges.

“China has been spending more than a billion dollars per year in football development. Millions of children in academies, thousands and thousands of foreign coaches, getting foreign players to play for their national team. And still, it’s not enough (for them to qualify for the World Cup).

We are dreaming about going to World Cup one day. It’s a huge, massive process because we are not the only ones dreaming about it. Other countries are doing more (than us) in terms of quantity of investments, grassroots, foreign coaches at academies, coaching licensing” said the Indian team coach in an interview with Indian Express.

The woes off the pitch

Off the pitch, there are bigger problems looming over the football federation of India. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on 8th April in relation to the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the AIFF, the Sports Ministry claimed current President, Shri Praful Patel’s tenure violates the sports code.

“…the term of the existing committee (of AIFF) is already over, and the existing president (Praful Patel) has completed more than 12 years as president, the petitioner (AIFF) should hold elections without further delay as per extant instructions contained under Sports Code and the instructions issued by the Answering Respondent (sports ministry) from time to time, the ministry’s affidavit said.

“That thus the tenure of an office-bearer of the Petitioner, such as the president, who has already served 12 years as president of AIFF, will be in violation of the Sports Code, specifically clause 9.3 (iii) of the Sports Code read with the notification dated 01.05.2010.” Patel completed his three terms and 12 years as AIFF president in December 2020, the maximum permitted to a national sports federation (NSF) chief under the Sports Code.

Replying to it, the AIFF claims that its constitution is pending approval from the ministry. Once confirmed, they are willing to conduct elections ‘tomorrow’ if required.

“As per the constitution of FIFA and AFC, it is mandatory to have an elected body representing the affairs of AIFF,” it said.

“Otherwise AIFF will lose its affiliation with FIFA and AFC and will not be able to either participate or hold any international competition in India including the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

“We would be more than happy to hold the elections tomorrow if the SC approves our constitution. Already our constitution is in conformity with the National Sports Code adhering to the age limit of 70 years and three tenures totalling 12 years.”

Adding to it, in a recent series of tweets, Minerva Academy owner Mr Ranjit Bajaj accused the AIFF General Secretary of sexual abuse at the workplace. He further put allegations of intoxication. The tweets, which claims Bajaj having records of the wrongdoings  by Mr Kushal Das have raised eyebrows for the entire fraternity.

Taking stern steps against the increasing issues of the governing body, the sports ministry has slashed funding drastically. The amount is decreased from INR 30 crores in 2018-19 to 5 crores this year which is almost 85% in the last four years.

Considering the current scenario, what steps will the stakeholders take to turn the tide? Will the off-field problems further slump the national team’s progress? Only time can tell.


For Trial related updates: Latest trials updates in Mumbai Football

Also Read: Mumbai City FC end historic campaign with victory over Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya

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