International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) on August 15 banned the All India Football Federation (AIFF), citing “undue influence from third parties”.
The suspension means that the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which was slated to take place in India between October 11 and October 30, 2022, would now have to be moved to further date.
Amid the ban, Indian women footballers are now in despair and are uncertain about their future. This indefinite suspension has had an immediate impact not only on just Indian football, but also on professionals down to the grassroots.
The Under-17 Women’s World Cup was the first FIFA tournament which India was hosting after 2017. The punishment also coincided with the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan, where Indian league winners Gokulam Kerala FC were chasing a maiden title. According to one NDTV report, women’s club only learned about the suspension when their flight landed in Tashkent and were barred from competing.
“We have put in so much hard work for the last two months and all the players were preparing to win the AFC trophy as well,” club captain Ashalati Devi, also skipper of the national women’s team, told India News.
Lavanya Varma, who was short-listed, blamed poor governance as a reason for the ban on AIFF.
She said the main reason for the ban is due to poor governance, but us innocent players have to suffer.
In a country obsessed with Cricket, women footballers have defied the scant investment and tried their best to make inroads in the game, but have only gone as far as getting muted recognition. The national women’s team ranked 58th in the women’s global rankings, whereas, the men ranked 104th.
“Women’s football in India was already struggling with a lack of resources and the ban will increase financial pressures,” said Jamshed Chenoy, who runs Sharpshooters FC in the city of Ahmedabad. The level of support for the women’s game in terms of sponsorships will take a hit, he added.
According to a PTI report, the sports ministry on Friday requested FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to allow Indian clubs- Sree Gokulam Kerala FC and ATK Mohun Bagan to compete in the tournaments as scheduled, despite the ban. The ministry also wrote an email to FIFA and AFC, apprising them of the fact that Gokulam Kerala was already in Uzbekistan when the ban was announced.
This is the first time in FIFA’s 85-year history that AIFF has been banned, with the apex body citing “flagrant violations of the FIFA Statutes” as its main reason.