EXCLUSIVE: Bhaichung Bhutia says FIFA ban on AIFF is an ‘opportunity’ to revamp Indian football

New Delhi: The Bureau of the FIFA Council suspended the AIFF (All India Football Federation) on Monday August 14. The order was signed by FIFA General Secretary, Fatma Samoura. It read that the “AIFF has lost all its membership rights under Article 13 of the FIFA statutes. It has been suspended until further notice.”

To understand the impact of the order and possible solution that might resort to the uplifting of the ban, Mayank Kasyap of News 24 talked to the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ of Indian football, Bhaichung Bhutia.

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Mayank: What is your take on the recent ban put on AIFF by FIFA?

Bhaichung: I think it is very unfortunate and a bit harsh on the (part of) FIFA to ban Indian football. And at the same time it also gives a great opportunity to restructure and reorganize the system. So that everybody is working for the betterment of Indian football. All the stakeholders included. And we get the right people in the federation to make sure that football grows and moves ahead.

Mayank: FIFA in its official statement has said that AIFF was being impacted by third-parties and its working was being manipulated. What is your take on this?

Bhaichung: No I think, third parties might have been involved till the time Sports law was not implemented. The federation was cancelled automatically by the Government of India which has its law on the sports court. Till the time, I think, there was a committee of CO administrative running which happens in every sport everywhere. But that doesn’t mean that they will have a certain period of time, they need their functions to make sure that the constitution is formed and the elections happen. I think that is what is being done. I think now the elections will happen. And lets see what happens (in the election).

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You have filed a nomination for the presidency of AIFF. What reforms you think you will be implementing if you get elected?

Bhaichung: I think its too early to say what reforms right now (will I be making). First thing is lets see what happens. Right now nothing is clear, who can fight, who can’t fight (the elections). There is only nominations that have happened. The final hearing is on Monday.

As an ex-footballer, we all want to contribute to Indian football. Which, I think, since the time federation was formed not many footballers have had the opportunity and chance to serve the country and contribute for the development of the sport. Because the system itself has been very complex for the ex-footballer to get in (the federation). The Supreme Court’s verdict is welcomed. I hope we get an opportunity to serve the country.

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Mayank: How optimistic are you regarding the reinstatement of AIFF into FIFA? And what according to you could be a possible solution so that Indian football can get a stand in the international football diaspora?

Bhaichung: As soon as the elections happen, I think the ban will be lifted.

The Sports Ministry has also approached FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and sent in an official request to let the teams- Sree Gokulam Kerala FC and ATK Mohun Bagan- compete in the tournaments scheduled despite the ban on AIFF. What is your take on this?

Bhaichung: Well, its just that once the elections happen, FIFA will lift the ban.

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