U-17 Women’s World Cup, in limbo as FIFA suspends Indian federation

By Mikaela Viqueira

New Delhi, Aug 20 (EFE).- FIFA’s suspension of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) this week has triggered uncertainty around the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by India in October, and also come as a big blow to the country’s ambitions to make a mark in the sport.

In a surprise move, FIFA suspended the federation Monday due to “undue influence from third parties.”

Since May, the AIFF has faced intervention by the Indian Supreme Court, which appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to govern the federation until it holds internal elections and amends its constitution in accordance with Indian laws.

“The recent suspension of the FIFA comes as a surprise to us all, especially since we had already found mutually accepted terms. Besides, democratic elections to elect a General Body were already on the way. However, we are hopeful that all problems will be solved to restore normalcy at the earliest,” one of the committee’s members, S.Y. Qureshi, said in a statement.

Sports analyst and project director of the Under-17 Men’s World Cup hosted by India in 2017, Joy Bhattacharjya, told EFE that the fact that the AIIF had delayed its elections, led to “so much chaos” and forced the courts to intervene because it “was not following the constitution or the sports code in India.”

The Supreme Court’s interference in the AIFF was unacceptable to FIFA, despite the CoA’s willingness to ensure that the body’s elections be held in the face of the proximity of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in two months.

Reading between the lines, the AIFF’s suspension is nothing more than a pressure tactic for the administrators to comply with everything that FIFA is asking for, so the national federation is expected to resume its activity in a matter of days, according to Bhattacharjya.

For the moment, and until the court issues a decision on the matter on Monday, no other country is being considered to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

“The preparations will not be paralyzed till there is a full and final confirmation that the World Cup will be shifted to another host nation,” an AIFF media department official told EFE, on grounds of anonymity.

FIFA said that it was “hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved.”

Moreover, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “already made a lot of promises saying that he will do this tournament. So the courts have been instructed to make sure that everything is sorted as fast as possible,” Bhattacharjya added.

Despite the confidence of the authorities, the uncertainty surrounding the hosting of the event by India has been a hard blow for some Indian players, a team that gained automatic qualification in the World Cup as the host country but is now in danger of losing its spot.

In addition, for a country like India, where the sport is gaining popularity but has not been developed much, such events are viewed as an opportunity to showcase its talent to the world.

Mutum Johnson Meitei, secretary of The Young Welfare Club (YWC), says he is concerned about five players from the club who have been provisionally called up by the U-17 women’s football team to play in the World Cup.

“We have lost a golden chance to participate” for our players, who will not have another such opportunity to showcase their talent in this category, he said.

In addition to the hard blow it has dealt to budding footballers, it is important for India that things return to normal so that it doesn’t lose its reputation for being able to host large sporting events.

“I think one of the things that this government wants to do is bring big events into India. And I think that is what is needed here. And therefore, the government is very committed” to hosting this event, Bhattacharjya said.

Otherwise, “it will be a black mark for future events,” he said. EFE


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