FIFA came to the rescue of Indian Footballers who had not been paid by their parent clubs under the FIFA Fund for Football Players scheme in association with the International Association of Football Players (FIFPro).
The fund, started in June 2020, aims to pay the footballers who “have not been paid and have no chance of duly receiving their outstanding wages due to the disappearance of their respective clubs.”
Sixteen players from India, including Internationals like Subrata Pal, Nirmal Chettri, Sanju Pradhan have benefitted from the fund, which has set aside 16 million dollars allocated in four periods from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2022.
The Indian players received the funds in 2021, during the second wave of COVID-19, with the majority of them hailing from DSK Shivajians, an Indian club that shut its operations in 2017 and had not paid these players since.
Subrata, Gouramangi Singh, Pradhan, Chettri, Sumeet Passi, Rakshit Dagar, Milan Singh, Seityasen Singh, Soram Poirei and Halicharan Narzary were the players awaiting payments from the Maharashtra-based club.
"Around 60 lakhs was the money awarded as compensation to the players," said Siddharth Bhattacharya, a board member of FIFPro and senior manager at Football Players Association of India (FPAI).
“Two players from Mumbai FC and 10 from DSK Shivajians had dues pending with the clubs unable to pay them. Laxmikant Kattimani and Pratesh Shirodkar were the players from Mumbai,” he added.
While grants provided under the mechanism of the fund did not cover the full amount of salaries owed to players, the fund provided an important ‘safety net' for players all around the world.
In addition, payments to approved applicants of the FIFA Fund for Football Players do not in any way extinguish the overall and existing debts of clubs listed as part of applications.
A lifesaver during the pandemic
Chettri, one of the most consistent defenders in Indian football in the last decade and one of the beneficiaries of the funds, said that the amount was a life-saver for him during the pandemic.
“I got the money at a time when I needed it the most because I was not playing at that time. I was with the family because we had a baby and I am very grateful to FPA who got in touch with FIFPro and helped us out,” Chettri told Sportstar .
“We had brothers in college, kids going to school and it was getting difficult to continue with everything shut,” he said.
The 31-year-old defender was playing for RoundGlass Punjab in the I-League when the lockdown happened and he had to return home. Though he started a new football club in Sikkim, named Melli FC, revenue remained a matter of concern throughout 2020 and 2021.
“I was supposed to get 12.5 lakhs from the club (DSK Shivajians). Though I did not get the entire amount, I am happy that I atleast got something,” he added.
The FIFA Fund has already allocated over a million dollars for countries under the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) with 6,75,000 dollars in Phase I and 3,32,000 dollars in Phase II.
As football recuperates in a post-COVID era, the next two phases will continue to provide aid in circumstances where professionals can continue playing, making football the ‘beautiful game’ in its true sense.
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