The All India Football Federation should get its act togther

The Asian Football Confederation's slapping of a $5000 fine and a ban on India from conducting any international tournament in 2003, for its failure to report back to the Asian body on the enquiry about the incidents that led to the bruising end to the IFA shield tournament final involving East Bengal and Palmeiras Club, Brazil in Kolkata in October 2001, has come as a wrap on the knuckles for the Indian officialdom.

Only a few months ago, the AFC had sent a three-member team to assess the situation and find ways to improve the game in the country. That the team has not had anything complimentary to report to the Asian body has just been revealed. And now this latest blow.

It is a different matter whether the Executive Committee and Appeals Committee of the AFC are yet to deliberate on whether to accept or throw out the representation by the AIFF President, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi against this ban.

To claim as Munshi has done that until the two Committees decide the sanctions will not have effect is to miss the essential point, which is the fact that India's administrative set up has been woefully exposed.

The match concerned was played in poor light and in the end insanity ruled on the field with players of both teams involved in a free-for-all joined by the crowd too. What is more, the Brazilian team left the country in a huff and sought the intervention of FIFA and AFC in the matter, even as IFA after deliberations,decided on awarding the trophy to East Bengal.

The decision may have pleased local fans but its merits are debatable. That it was a scar on Kolkata football in particular and Indian football in general became clear when AFC asked the AIFF to conduct an enquiry and report back. The AIFF had set up a three-member committee headed by Mr. Justice Ranganath Mishra with R. Anand, MP and K.N.K. Menon, a journalist, as members, to enquire into the dark episode.

The Federation obviously believed this would satisfy the Asian body and did not realise the implications of the serious delay in sending a report, this not even after AFC had sent reminders.

To claim now that IFA's observations on the match incidents had reached the Committee only now, after 15 months, is the sort of excuse that would be unacceptable to any top sports body.

For sometime now, the Asian body has been viewing India with concern and curiosity. That it considers India a potential football power is well known going by its observations in various forums but what has saddened the officials in Kuala Lumpur is the seeming disinterest in AIFF in setting realistic goals.

Only recently, after the new set of officials had taken over , a semblance of order has begun to come into AIFF's administration. But clearly there is much to be done if professionalism, the sine qua non of modern day administration, has to be seen in Indian football.

A year ago Peter Velappan, AFC General Secretary, on one of his visits to India in connection with the much talked about Afro-Asian Games, chose the occasion to lambast the Indian officialdom on its lackadaisical ways.

These are changing times when every Confederation is vying with the other for attention from the World body.

Ever since the Korea-Japan World Cup, Asia has been in focus for all the right reasons after Japan and Korea did very well in organising the World Cup.

The effort under the new team led by Mohamed bin Hammam seemingly is to tighten the screws on errant Federations and reward those which have been contributing to the good of the game.

That the Asian body did not consider India's case in isolation is evident from the stringent measures it has initiated against Pakistan, banning that country for two years for fielding over-aged players in an under-17 Asian competition.

Maybe the Asian body would view the positive trends in Indian football and reconsider its decision once it is satisfied that it has conveyed its resentment to the Indian Federation.

That it has given January 7 as a deadline for AIFF to report back on the IFA shield incident is in itself an indication that the extreme step may be reconsidered. Nonetheless the message is clear to the AIFF: tone up the adminstration or face the consequences.