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Praful Patel Finally Runs Out of Luck, Tenure Beyond Permissible Limit Ends

PTI

Last Updated: May 18, 2022, 20:39 IST

Praful Patel (AIFF)

Praful Patel (AIFF)

Patel's third term in office was to end in December 2020 but he clung to a SC case, which remained pending since 2017.

A stop-gap arrangement before becoming a full-fledged head of All India Football Federation in 2009, Praful Patel ruled the national sports body with an iron hand, often muzzling dissent, and beyond permissible tenure before he was ultimately forced out of office by the Supreme Court.

Patel’s third term in office was to end in December 2020 but he clung to a 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.

This has forced the SC to appoint a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by former top court judge AR Dave to manage the affairs of the AIFF and adoption of its constitution in line with the National Sports Code and model guidelines.

The CoA will also comprise two earlier members — Dr SY Qureshi, former Chief Election Commissioner and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian football team besides Justice (retd) Dave.

This is the first time a CoA will take charge of the AIFF, unprecedented in its 85-year-old history during which time it has never failed to hold its elections until the Patel-led dispensation bucked the trend.

There was an element of luck in his rise as he got the top job after then AIFF chief Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi suffered a cardiac arrest in 2008 (as Patel was the senior vice president then).

“The earlier executive committee of AIFF (headed by Patel) is no longer there after today’s SC order, it is gone. The SC asked us to take charge immediately, so as soon as we get the court order we will assume charge, speak to each other and chalk out our course of action," Quraishi told PTI.

He said the new constitution is expected to be approved by the SC by July 30 and elections of the new office bearers of the AIFF could be held in September-October.

Ganguly welcomed the order of the top court.

He agreed that it is a big victory for Indian football as the sport appeared to be headed in the right direction after many years.

Many in the AIFF state units saw it coming and said the top court’s action was inevitable, though they were not keen on coming out in the open. Already, the AIFF continuing without holding elections have earned the national sports body brickbats on social media.

“I don’t remember when a committee of administrators had been appointed to run AIFF and this would not have happened had the elections were held on time (in December 2020)," an official from a state unit told PTI.

Not all the officials are celebrating though as they fear the world governing body FIFA may step in and ban the AIFF for “outside interference" and not being able to work as autonomous body. Patel sits at the powerful FIFA Council and many accused him of playing the FIFA ban card if the court steps in.

India is to host the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup in October this year.

“FIFA may step in and ban AIFF, that is a possibility. All these mess were due to the deferment of elections."

The extension of recognition of the AIFF by the government was also under doubt after the sports ministry filed an affidavit before the SC that Patel and his executive committee have no mandate to remain in office.

Patel’s last few days in office also saw a team of officials from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) visiting the AIFF headquarters here to look into its various documents related to the last four financial years.

Entrepreneur and owner of former I-League club Minerva Punjab FC, Ranjit Bajaj, however, felt there will not be any action from FIFA.

“We are asking for elections," he said.

“The AIFF’s main strategy was ensuring that the case was not listed in the SC as long as possible. In 2020, Quraishi and Ganguly submitted the draft constitution to SC, but Praful Patel misrepresented all the members. He was doing everything in so many different ways," Bajaj said.

“It’s a very big victory for India football. The new constitution will be as per Sports Code, the faster it is approved the better it is for Indian football."

Patel’s executive committee had largely become a toothless one as it could not take decisions involving huge financial implications. A de-recognition of the AIFF may spell doom for the sport which otherwise has not seen much improvement while other sports surged ahead in recent years.

Patel, a former union minister, served as acting president for one year after long-time head Dasmunshi became ill.

He took over as full-time president in October 2009 before being re-elected to the top post in December 2012 and 2016. His three terms and 12 years as AIFF president ended in December 2020, the maximum permitted to a national sports federation (NSF) chief under the sports code.

Before Patel, then Congress party heavyweight Dasmunsi served as AIFF president from 1989 to 2008.

Under Patel, India hosted the FIFA Under-17 Men’s World Cup in 2017 and the Women’s Asian Cup was also held in the country earlier this year. The Indian men’s team also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

To the amazement of many in the country, Patel also became a member of the influential FIFA Council, something which even his more powerful predecessor Dasmunshi could not achieve.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)
first published:May 18, 2022, 20:29 IST
last updated:May 18, 2022, 20:39 IST
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