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Immediate suspension by FIFA averted, but timelines key: Former AIFF Prez

Former All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel has said there is ‘no immediate threat’ of a FIFA ban on the country but warned the situation could get serious if issues surrounding the elections are not ‘resolved in a reasonable time frame, say by the end of July’. Due to a logjam in finalising the federation’s constitution to hold elections, the Supreme Court had last month formed a three-member CoA to look after the day-to-day affairs, thus bringing an end to Patel’s stint as the head of Indian football.

The Supreme Court empowered the CoA – comprising ex-Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, Justice Anil Dave and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly – ‘to take decisions on holding of tournaments, selection of players and all other matters necessary for the proper governance of the federation.’

Soon after the decision, Patel had feared that world football governing body FIFA could see this as a violation of its statutes and impose a ban on India, which would have brought most activities to a grinding halt. However, on Saturday, he said such a situation has been averted for now. “I have been proactively engaging with them (FIFA and Asian Football Confederation) so they can understand the situation better. I have been successful to the extent that we’ve been able to avoid immediate suspension,” Patel said.

On Friday, India captain Sunil Chhetri had said a FIFA ban on India would be ‘catastrophic’ and was concerned initially that it could impact the Asian Cup qualifiers, which begin in Kolkata on Wednesday. While the qualifiers will now take place without the threat of a ban on India, Patel said the country could still lose the hosting rights for the U-17 Women’s World Cup, to be held in October, if the issue is not resolved soon. “They have made it very clear that if this issue is not resolved in a reasonable time frame, say by end of July, the next steps will follow. That they have indicated to me,” Patel said.

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A joint FIFA and AFC delegation will be visiting India on June 20th to meet all concerned parties, including the CoA. Patel said the officials from the world and continental bodies are coming with an ‘objective to help the CoA form the draft constitution, which can be presented in the Supreme Court.’

“If the CoA is convinced the constitution can be formalised and placed before Supreme Court, we may be able to avoid any suspension. It all depends on the timelines that are going to be presented before the FIFA-AFC team which will be visiting India.”

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