Praful Patel: Will request FIFA for two months’ time to hold AIFF elections

Praful rejects allegations that he is responsible for the AIFF’s current situation, says he will ask the CoA to “please try to conduct the elections.”

PTI
Praful Patel...“Pressure should be there to conduct elections at the earliest, otherwise Indian football will suffer.”

Former AIFF president Praful Patel said he will call FIFA boss Gianni Infantino on Monday to request him not to ban India and to give the federation two months’ time to conduct elections.

A joint team from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation is set to visit India to “understand the current situation” in the aftermath of the Supreme Court order to constitute a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the AIFF’s affairs.

Praful, who sits in the all-powerful FIFA council, will also speak to Fatma Samoura, the secretary general of the world football governing body.

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Praful said holding elections at the earliest was critical to the health of Indian football. “I will speak to FIFA and tell them that whatever happens, if elections take place in two months please give a bit of a leeway to India,” he said on Sunday.

“Our sport will not suffer that way. This will be my personal pinch, how much it works, how much it doesn’t... because every individual in FIFA council member cannot decide everything,” he said.

“I will speak tomorrow. I will even call up president Infantino and also speak to Fatma Samoura and tell them please try to give India two months to hold elections and lets us continue with the game.”

He said he will also ask the CoA to “please try to conduct the elections.”

“So, pressure should be there to conduct elections at the earliest, otherwise Indian football will suffer.”

ALSO READ - Praful Patel leaves office ahead of elections after Supreme Court intervention

During an interaction with PTI , Praful also rejected the charge form some quarters that he deliberately held on to the president’s post. “Who would I have given the charge to if I had left in December, 2020. Also, having elections as per old constitution would have been a contempt of court,” Patel said.

On May 18, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member CoA headed by former top court judge A. R. Dave to manage the affairs of the AIFF and frame a constitution in line with the National Sports Code and model guidelines. A bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and P. S. Narasimha said the CoA would comprise two earlier members - Dr S. Y. Qureshi, former Chief Election Commissioner and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian football team, besides Justice (retd.) Dave.

The bench said the CoA will prepare electoral rolls for the purpose of conducting elections to the executive committee of AIFF as per the constitution to be submitted by the two-member committee (ombudsman) of Qureshi and Ganguly.

‘Regret’

Praful said he has regrets with the manner in which he had to leave, having served as the president of AIFF since 2008.

“Yes, it is a regret. I would have hoped for elections and a nice transition. The regret is not about not being able to continue. The regret will be, if at all if there is a situation tomorrow (stopping of football activity).”

‘How am I responsible for the delay in the election? Please tell me. I just read out from the court order. What can I do if the order came on May 22? I have seen far bigger things, don’t think that attending four meetings of FIFA council [is all I was looking forward to]. I am a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament and I will again file my nomination.’

He said he will be there to assist the federation as and when he is required.

When the discussion turned to the possibility of a FIFA ban, he said, “They ratify those decisions (actions can be taken earlier) later or they will do it by circulation. I will find out... My own impression is in the case of Pakistan and Kenya, I think, it only came for ratification as decisions had been taken before. I never envisaged this situation.

“My thinking was that the court will say two months, finish it before that, and we would have argued for that.”

“How am I responsible for the delay in the election? Please tell me. I just read out from the court order. What can I do if the order came on May 22? I have seen far bigger things, don’t think that attending four meetings of FIFA council [is all I was looking forward to]. I am a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament and I will again file my nomination.”

He also said that he will not interfere in the elections in any way.

“It doesn’t work out that way. I will be a voter, I will give advice. I will be at their service as and when I am required.”

It has been learned that the proposed constitution mentions about 25 per cent individual involvement of former players in the executive committee. Involvement of former players is a great idea, but can they be involved individually without being part of any state association? If that does happen, can it bring a FIFA ban? “How does a player come in without a State association?” Patel asked.

The FIFA and AFC constitutions don’t have a provision for former players to sit in the executive committee in personal capacity.

Praful’s third term in office ended in December, 2020, but he had clung to a Supreme Court 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.