The All India Football Federation’s new president Kalyan Chaubey is a busy man since inheriting the charge of the oldest and biggest sports federation in the country.
As the head of the Federation, he has already started planning for the development of the sport which includes planning a new youth league, bringing in all stakeholders including the Union and State Governments together to work for the development and proposing the abolishing of foreigners from the I-League to create a bigger pool of talented Indian players.
Chaubey also informed about an ambitious programme of training 1.8 million children across the country and making the under-17 women’s World Cup a Launchpad for a junior women’s tournament.
Q: What are your plans for taking Indian football ahead?
We have a lot of plans which we will share as they develop.
But I will give you a small example: on September 9 (2022) when we met the FIFA president, one of the topics that came up for discussion was India – being a massive country – how well publicised the under-17 women’s World Cup was.
I shared the concern with Union sports minister Anurag Thakur.
The point I am trying to make here is the importance of government help in developing sports. In 24 hours, he called a meeting with senior officers of Information and Broadcast and sports ministries.
In that meeting, decisions were taken on the roles of Doordarshan, Press Information Bureau (in promoting the under-17 World Cup), and whether or not selfie points will be kept at airports and train stations.
It was also decided that at 30 venues matches will be played with at least six teams, meaning five games for each, which will also spur the conversation around the under-17 World Cup.
All this was done in 48 hours. SAI will pay for the expenses of hosting matches at these 30 venues.
This just shows what is possible if a sports federation is connected with the government. AIFF will be in constant touch with the union government and all state governments. Because sports is on the state list.
Q: How is AIFF looking to coordinate with the government?
If I have to develop football with the help of the sports ministry, we will look at training 1.8 million students across the country.
FIFA will give you 1 million footballs to promote the game.
We are shortlisting 10,000 schools across India. Each school will get 100 balls. Children from classes 1 to 6 will be trained using these footballs. Let’s assume 30 students from each class are interested. So each school will have 180 students playing, taking the total count across 10,000 schools to 18 lakh or 1.8 million.
These schools have a Physical Education teacher meaning you don’t have to spend on hiring a coach.
AIFF can have a seven-day training programme for those PE teachers — maybe help them get D or E coaching badges of AIFF — who can teach these boys and girls the basics: receiving, shooting, chipping and passing.
They can start with receiving and passing and move on to learning to chip when they are nine.
This way, there will be a uniform way of training boys and girls across India. And parents don’t have to spend extra on getting their children to learn football.
This is how 18 lakh children will be trained. This is an initiative of the HRD ministry which will be implemented through the sports ministry, AIFF, state associations and the state government.
This can be part of nation-building efforts.
Q: What are your future plans with your marketing partner FSDL?
I met them three days ago. I had a notion through the media that because of ISL, football has regressed. I was somewhat embarrassed, perhaps because I was not properly informed of how things have changed. What was India’s ranking in 2014 before ISL (177) and what it is now (104)? What was television viewership then and what is it now? What was the attendance in places where football was not played regularly and how that has changed now? Quality of broadcasting and commentary. When they showed this through a presentation, I felt that through this that there has been progress, even if it is little. Can’t deny that.
Q: Can we see promotion and relegation starting in ISL soon?
We have discussed this with the relevant stakeholders.
There are a lot of issues like the ISL franchises taking a loss of Rs. 22 crores. Will the promoted team have the pocket to lose crores of Rupees? Also, the relegated team may be losing interest.
You have to weigh the pros and the cons and need a mature discussion on this and find a way forward. The AIFF will do everything for the development of the game under the guidelines of FIFA.
Q: How will you manage time both as the AIFF president and also as a BJP leader?
I will be opting out of my political responsibilities very soon.
I personally believe in being fully responsible for the post I am appointed to. I try to justify my post with complete dedication and honesty. I cannot balance both the posts as the AIFF president and my political responsibility as the president of BJP’s north Kolkata unit.
I am expected to vacate my political post in another couple of months once my successor settles down in the chair.
Again, I feel that as the AIFF president it will not be fair to have a political affiliation as it may create difficulty in acceptance for those who are not having my political affiliation.
Q: What are the changes you feel are necessary for AIFF?
My predecessors Priya Ranjan Das Munsi and Praful Patel were politically very active and became cabinet ministers in the Union Government.
I don’t wish to be termed critical, but there is a feeling during the 13 years of Mr. Patel’s tenure as the president of AIFF, football in India did not reach the point it was supposed to attain.
Let us take the point of accountability, I have found out that there are several people in the AIFF rolls who are not working most of the time.
There are exorbitant bills on travel and stay which are definitely bleeding the federation. I have asked for a self-evaluation report from everyone involved with the Federation. I want to see what their targets were and how much each of them has achieved.
Q: How is AIFF going to take its development agenda to the states?
The AIFF has decided to depute a technical officer and an administrative officer in each of the 36 affiliates. The salaries of these persons will be borne by the AIFF. That is how we plan to bring professionalism to the functioning of the state associations and realise the vision that we have for Indian football.
Q: What do you think of restricting foreigners in the I-League?
If we want to encourage the development of football we have to stop foreigners in the lower divisions.
I was in Germany in 2002 and found out that after the country faltered in the 1998 World Cup, it stopped allowing foreigners in the lower divisions (following Bundesliga 1 and 2) to give German players more exposure.
I got a chance with the regional division team but could not get a work permit because of that decision.
So, why should I allow this to happen in my own country?
There should not be any foreigners in our lower leagues too. The teams may not do well without foreigners initially, maybe in the first five matches. You may not score goals or you may concede stupid goals but from the sixth match, you will start doing well.
If your child fails an exam will you kick him out of the home? No, you will support him more to overcome his drawbacks. I have come through this system as a player and this is what I believe in. I can table my vision in the executive committee meetings and it is up to it to decide whether they should take my views or not.
Q: What are your thoughts about making football a livelihood so that parents are encouraged to send in their wards?
You see the footballers' salary has increased manifold. We know there are players who are overpaid given their talent vis-a-vis their predecessors. The average salary earned has increased and this is the positive side of the market. We now have to see how we get maximum
utilisation of the flow of funds and at the same time we have to produce talented players.
Q: What do you say about having an under-21 league?
When a footballer – who is 18 years old his muscles are not as strong – plays against foreigners’ under-23 national team, you get a disjointed team.
So when you have the under-21 league then it becomes easier to get a pool of players for the under-23 team.
This is the basic idea and it needs to be decided whether it will be called the I-League or Bharat League or the district league. That we will decide in the course of time. There should be a district-based championship where domestic players will play and which will give it an identity.
Any details about the MoU signed with the Qatar football federation?
Qatar has the best infrastructure in the Aisa if not the World. The collaboration will benefit Indian football but the core areas that I can discuss only after the MoU is signed. The future will judge the success of the new agreement that will be signed soon.
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