AIFF Polls: Bhutia files nomination; candidates with political affiliation heat up football turf war


The legendary Bhaichung Bhutia on Friday filed his nomination for the presidents post in the upcoming AIFF elections but getting through wont be easy for the former footballer as several candidates with political affiliations have also thrown their hats in the ring.

There are ex-footballers turned politicians and politicians who aspire to enter sports administration in the fray along with long-time sports administrator, who want to grab the top job in All India Football Federation (AIFF).

The deadline to file nominations for the post expired on Friday. The much-delayed elections are scheduled for August 28.

Bhutias name has been proposed by his former national team colleague Deepak Mondal and seconded by “eminent woman player” Madhhu Kumari.

However for him to succeed it is imperative that electoral college is not without former players. As of now FIFA statues do not allow their presence. A clear picture will emerge when Supreme court resumes its hearing on the issue on Monday. Former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey, a BJP leader from West Bengal, who has unsuccessfully fought one general and one state assembly elections, will be the biggest threat to Bhutia.

Chaubey as a footballer is no match to Bhutia but a look at the former custodians proposer (Gujarat Football Assocciation) and seconder (Arunachal Pradesh) explains the impact his presence could make to the outcome of these elections.

Gujarat is the state of two of Indias biggest political leaders (PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah) while Arunachal Pradesh is former sports minister and current Law Minister Kiren Rijijus home state.

There Ajit Banerjee, who is IFA (West Bengal) president but his primary identity is him being the elder brother to West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.

He wouldnt have entered the fray had he not had the go-ahead from the party leadership.

The third footballer in the list and youngest candidate is 36-year-old former India midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who is now an MLA. He represents regional heavyweight United Democratic Party in Meghalaya.

Lyngdoh, who played for India alongside Sunil Chhetri, entered active politics when his father passed away and won the election from Mawphlang constituency.

There is NA Haris from Karnataka State Football Association, who is a local Congress MLA and a very active participant in AIFF politics. There is a second Congress member and a surprise nominee in Rajasthans Manavendra Singh, who was formerly with BJP. He has been a member of Parliament in Lok Sabha and also happens to be former defence minister Late Jaswant Singhs son.

Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran, who has worked in FIFA has also filed the nomination papers for presidents post but even he knows that it would be an uphill task to seek votes in case of an election.

It is often witnessed that when prominent name emerges, a lot of candidates withdraw their nomination. While Bhutia has filed his nomination as an “eminent player”, the inclusion of which is debatable, he could turn out to be a unifying figure if right-minded people come together to break the impasse.

“I have filed my nominations as representative of eminent players. In the wake of the SC decision to allow players I hope the players can have a chance to serve Indian football. We want to show we can be good not only as players but also as administrators,” Bhutia told told PTI.

Hours before the FIFA ban on AIFF earlier this week the Committee of Administrators (CoA) running football in India had agreed to hold the sports bodys elections without giving voting rights to eminent players as per the world bodys wish. Chaubey had been a petitioner in the case to remove Praful Patel for overstaying his tenure and not someone who has filed papers for the heck of it. “I have got Gujarat and Arunachal backing my nomination and I have been a former player myself,” Chaubey, who was a reserve goalkeeper of national team, told PTI.

For Banerjee, the mere mention of his younger sister invoked a sharp response. “People may say whatever but Ive no political connection. For over 50 years Ive been serving football and she (Mamata Banerjee) has never interfered,” Banerjee told PTI when asked how much active support she will receive from the CM.

“Obviously Ive filed the nomination to win and Im 100 per cent hopeful. I know there are some strong candidates there but Im hopeful.

“FIFA has clearly mentioned that they would not allow third party intervention. So we will have to abide by their guidelines and go for elections.”

The NSF polls are never confined to just sportsmen and sports administrators alone. They always have political colour attached to them. If the eminent players are allowed, then Bhutia could well be a runaway winner with bulk of 36 votes enough to swing it in his favour. However if it is only the state units as per FIFA rule, then Chaubey has more than a better chance of pulling it through with blessings from right people.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)