New Delhi: Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia filed Friday his nomination for the president’s post in the upcoming AIFF elections. However, getting through won’t be easy for Bhaichung Bhutia as several candidates with political leanings 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 administrators, who want to grab the top job in All India Football Federation (AIFF). The deadline to file nominations for the post expired Friday. The much-delayed elections are scheduled for August 28.
Bhutia’s 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 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. However, a look at the former custodian’s proposer (Gujarat Football Association) and seconder (Arunachal Pradesh) explains the impact his presence could make to the outcome of these elections.
Gujarat is the state of two of India’s biggest political leaders (Narendra Modi and Amit Shah) while Arunachal Pradesh is former Sports Minister and current Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s home state.
There is also Ajit Banerjee, who is IFA (West Bengal) president, in the fray However, his primary identity is being the elder brother to West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee. He wouldn’t have entered the fray had he not had the go-ahead from the party leadership.
The third footballer in the list and youngest candidate fighting for the post of AIFF president 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. A second Congress member and a surprise nominee is Rajasthan’s Manavendra Singh, who was formerly with BJP.
Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran, who has worked in FIFA has also filed the nomination papers for president’s 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 Supreme Court’s decision to allow players, I hope the footballers 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 asserted.
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 body’s elections without giving voting rights to ‘eminent’ players as per the world body’s wish.
Chaubey had been a petitioner in the case to remove Praful Patel for overstaying his tenure. He is 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 the national team, said.
The polls of national sports federations are never confined to just sportspersons 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.