Ranjit Bajaj, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) to see the running of the day-to-day affairs of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has alleged Praful Patel’s role in FIFA banning India and said that a desperate attempt by the former president to return to power is hurting the sport in the country.
In a major setback and embarrassment for the nation, FIFA on Tuesday suspended India for "undue influence from third parties" and said the U-17 Women's World Cup "cannot currently be held in India as planned."
This is the first time the AIFF has been banned by FIFA in its 85-year history.
Bajaj, who is also an entrepreneur, clarified that CoA had accepted all demands made by FIFA, but reinstating Patel will be against the law.
“Everyone feels the CoA is responsible for the ban, but it doesn’t have any powers. We had the powers till the day SC was not involved. Once the constitution was handed to the Supreme Court, any change to be made is not in CoA’s hand, but with SC. Yesterday (Monday, August 15), FIFA had a meeting with the Union Sports Ministry saying 'these are our demands and if you meet them there will be no ban'.
"There listed 11 demands one of which is that players are not allowed to vote, 22-member committee, etc, and they were all accepted, all of them. But one demand they made was that Praful Patel should be reinstated as AIFF president and Subrata Roy should be made the vice-president and we will let you keep the World Cup,” said Bajaj, who owned former I-League club Minerva Punjab before it was sold to RoundGlass in 2020.
“CoA agreed to other demands, but reinstating Patel is a case of national law. Sports code says one can be at the helm for not more than 12 years. And on top of that, he has been accused of corruption. And they want this guy back? Then we came to know that this is all a Praful Patel trick. He is not interested in other things. He just wants to get himself back. It is a contempt of court, he added.
Recently, the Delhi High Court ordered Hockey India president Narinder Batra to step down as the president over his appointment as a life member. A three-member CoA was formed to look into the day-to-day working of the association. Even the table tennis federation was put under CoA.
Bajaj felt reinstating Patel will have an implication on other sports too. “This will impact all other sports. Tomorrow, Narinder Batra will say I want to come back then the TT people will say we want to come back. If you allow it for one then have it for all. If we are supposed to back down then we are backing down from the law. Comprise can be done when your ethics are not involved. One can’t compromise with ethics. FIFA doesn't understand it will affect all the sports,” Bajaj explained.
The Centre on Tuesday, sought an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court on the AIFF matter in the wake of the FIFA ban. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that "an important development" has taken place and FIFA has sent a letter suspending India which is in the public domain and needs to be brought on record. The bench told Mehta that the matter is listed for Wednesday and it would try to take it up as a first matter.
“So tomorrow (Wednesday) SC will decide after hearing all the arguments. If Patel has to come back then the Union ministry should say we will overrule SC’s decision and get this man back,” Bajaj remarked.
The country is scheduled to host its first women’s football event from October 11-30, but a threat looms over it. Bajaj said the CoA is in talks with FIFA and a solution is expected soon. “The silver lining is that they have not totally taken away the World Cup. We are in talks with them. Hopefully, PM Narendra Modi and his government will be able to challenge that,” he concluded.