The All India Football Federation (AIFF) system is undergoing drastic changes ever since the Supreme Court started an investigation into the wrongdoings to have taken within the organization. AIFF president Praful Patel resigned from his role after being accused of continuing his role without timely elections.
Since then, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das has also gone on ‘indefinite leave’. It was discovered that he allegedly paid ₹16 lakhs to an astrologer’s company for ‘good luck’ ahead of India’s AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. A lot of switches are being made to restructure AIFF and avoid Indian football from getting a ban by FIFA.
The AIFF elections are tipped to take place before the start of the new season. So let’s have a look at the top five candidates to become the next AIFF president.
5. Tom Jose
Since being appointed as the president of the Kerala Football Association in 2019, Tom Jose has helped in the steady development of football in the state. Kerala is among the major ‘football-crazy’ states in India and has seen a lot of success in recent years. Gokulam Kerala has won the I-League twice, while Kerala Blasters also reached the Indian Super League (ISL) final.
While Jose wasn’t responsible for the on-field success of those teams, he has been laying solid groundwork for the improvement of football and footballers in the states. Kerala successfully hosted the Santosh Trophy earlier this year, attracting huge crowds to the games. The Kerala Premier League and Kerala Women’s League have also seen more attraction and hosted to high standards under Jose. Tom Jose is a football fanatic with a small local club in Kerala. Knowing his impressive work for Kerala Football in recent years, Jose can be a real option for the AIFF Presidential role.
4. Joydeep Mukherjee
Joydeep Mukherjee has earned a glowing reputation in the West Bengal football scene. He helped uplift the IFA (Indian Football Association) in the last three years. When he became their general secretary in 2019, IFA were in major debt and struggling financially. However, he helped to fix their financial situation and restructure them in a really positive manner. Under Mukherjee’s tutelage, the West Bengal football scene also grew in prominence.
The IFA helped organize the I-League in Kolkata and its whereabouts for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 campaigns. They managed it all while keeping the Covid-19 protocols strictly in place. He also helped organize Women’s Tournaments, major youth-level competitions, and the Calcutta Football League after a year’s gap due to Covid-19. Not just that, but the IFA also helped many football-related people struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic with financial help. Mukherjee definitely helped expand the development and organization of football in West Bengal and recently resigned from his role. Maybe he can eye the AIFF President role next.
3. Shaji Prabhakaran
Shaji Prabhakaran is another Keralite with a massive love for football. He has a lot of experience when it comes to working in the beautiful game. And he has worked both on and off the pitch. The current president of the Delhi Football Association has also worked in different roles in Indian football in the past. He was a coach at the Chandigarh Football Academy for four years. He has also been the president of Delhi United FC.
Shaji has a lot of experience working in executive positions. He was the FIFA South Central Asia Development Officer for a short stint. Prabhakaran is also the founder of the Football Khelo Foundation. It aspires to attract more youngsters to play football and improve the state of youth football in the country. Shaji’s CV and experience of working as a president in Delhi give him a decent chance at vying for the AIFF President role going forward.
2. Aaditya Thackeray
The son of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Aaditya Thackeray has been working hard on improving the football scene in the state over the last decade or so. He was re-elected as the president of the Mumbai District Football Association earlier this year for his impressive work in developing the scene in and around Mumbai. Thackeray has helped issue the building of two new major grounds of international standard in Mumbai, one of which has already been completed and is ready to use.
Moreover, he has also helped to improve the youth development scene in the state. He has also bettered the organization of competitions like the Mumbai Football League. A young, aspiring person with new ideas and experience of acting as a president for quite some time, Thackeray can be a potential option to succeed Praful Patel as the AIFF President.
1. Subrata Dutta
Perhaps the most experienced figure who can strongly contest the AIFF Presidential election is the current Vice President, Subrata Dutta. The experienced head has a lot of expertise in operating at this level and has been involved with Indian football for many years. He’s also the President of the IFA (Indian Football Association) and has even served as the Vice President of the South West Asian Football Federation in his career.
Dutta has a clear understanding of the ins and outs of the AIFF and was second-in-command behind Patel in the precious pecking order. Ife even tries to contest for this role, then he can be a significant favourite to take up the position because of his experience at this level.