The football season has kicked off. The annual I-league is in progress. There is encouraging news of the Rovers Cup being revived in Mumbai. India’s ranking may not have improved dramatically but football hopes to attract attention.
There are, however, two key pockets that only stare at an uncertain future as far as the state of football is concerned. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are two associations that have remained mired in legal battles, resulting in the deterioration of the game. Poor administration and lack of vision have left these two associations in disarray.
Bihar is the latest to join this brigade. The state association has failed to hold elections, repeatedly postponing them, leading to discontent among various office-bearers. In a letter to the All India Football Federation, officials from some district units (Prasuram Pandey from Bhojpur and Surendra Singh from Lakhisarai) have urged the parent body to conduct fresh elections following charges of corruption against office-bearers of the Bihar Football Association.
The AIFF has allegedly not responded to their pleas citing security as a major issue in holding the elections.
Blaming the administration for the mess in Andhra Pradesh — a state which has produced 14 Olympians, but not participated in the National championship for a decade now — Olympian and former FIFA referee S.S. Hakim said: “I blame the callous officials for the sad state of Hyderabad football. There has been no league for ten years now, and not one player for a long time in the Indian team.
“Football is played more in the courts than on the field in Hyderabad,” he said.
Former great Magan Singh, part of Rajasthan’s rise as a football force in the 70s when he took RAC Bikaner to the Durand Cup final, noted: “Poorly administered state associations have become a major problem in Indian football. People with vested interest run the game in several places.
“These officials are responsible for degeneration of the game. They just want to hang on to their positions at all costs.”
Arjuna awardee Magan, captain of the 1974 Indian team at the Tehran Asian Games, stressed: “You have to involve past players in football administration. Most officials have made a business out of their work, and they have no interest in football at heart. They continue to ignore players and indulge in rampant corruption to promote undeserving players.
“I am not at all optimistic as long as the administrative set up is not overhauled in Indian football.”
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has long been pestering the AIFF to force the state associations to adopt the FIFA recommended model constitution. Only a few have complied so far.
“AIFF is dependent on state bodies for votes and avoids dealing with such issues. It serves the federation’s interest,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.