The Football Delhi president spoke exclusively with Khel Now on the Beyond the Scores Podcast
Delhi Football Association president Shaji Prabhakaran is a well-known face in the Indian Football circuit, having served as the All India Football Federation and the FIFA South Central Asia Development Officer in the past.
Shaji Prabhakaran joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast recently. He sat down with host Ashish Negi and had a very candid conversation, talking about the recent problems in the AIFF and how they could have avoided them.
The former FIFA South Central Asia Development Officer spoke about what led AIFF to this situation, what they did to prevent the ban, and much more. This article pertains to Part 1 of the interview, which covers the current situation of AIFF.
Why did AIFF get into the situation they are in right now?
Shaji started the conversation by speaking about his time with the All India Football Federation between 2004 and 2017. He never assumed that AIFF would get into the situation they are in now as they were at a much bigger and better level. However, things have changed since the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
“As we finished the World Cup U17, that was the turning point. I think we lost track and that is where things started going from bad to worse. There were many red lights, but then everybody jumped the red lights, and there were very less green lights,” he said.
Shaji also blamed the AIFF culture for the ongoing crisis in Indian Football. “The culture, institution portrait was not about football, which is the worst part. Your core business organization was to promote football, protect and develop the game. When you miss these core aspects & your focus is on something else, you get into this crisis, which was unavoidable because of the people who were there.”
He was upset as he never expected the AIFF to bring a bad name to football. Shaji Prabhakaran was hurt as the All India Football Federation let millions of people down who believed in Indian Football. Those people invested their energy, focus, time, and resources to reach greater heights.
Accordingly to him, “we lost focus when the focus was more on individuals than the organizations.” That was when Supreme Court intervened, and the threat of a ban loomed over the AIFF.
FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup to take place under a new committee
Shaji confirmed that the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup would take place under the new AIFF committee, which is to be elected by 15th September. “They have given the deadline, saying the newly elected executive committee should be in place by 15th September and that is very clear.”
Word on preventing the ban
Shaji stated that “we should thank the state associations as they played a vital role in preventing the ban.” The All India Football Federation reached a situation, and there wasn’t any way to get out of it. “Therefore, we wanted to work closely with CoA because we wanted to follow the judgment of the Supreme Court and we respect the judgment,” he said.
“CoA are doing good work and are working closely with us. Therefore, we don’t want any ban and all the state associations are with one voice. We have communicated this with FIFA and that is how I can say we have prevented the ban,” Shaji added.
The state associations were happy with the Supreme Court’s decision because the term was over, and the elections should have happened. “AIFF, is we state associations and we are satisfied with whatever happened with the Supreme Court.”
Impact on fans & the game
The Delhi Football Association president stated that the state associations wanted to forget this situation and move forward rather than criticizing what had happened. He also stated the fans are unhappy as the AIFF let everyone down and didn’t prioritize the sport.
“We can go back, review, criticize but what we state associations want is, we want to move forward. We don’t want to get into this situation in the next 100 days because it has badly hurt the image of the game. The fans are unhappy, everybody is unhappy, and everybody is criticizing. They are right in their place as we have let ourselves down. We have not prioritized football. We should have always prioritized football,” he stated.
With the FIFA, AFC, and Ministry of Sports wanting this situation to end quickly, the CoA and the state associations are focussing on getting an elected body in place, Shaji confirmed.
Shaji Prabhakaran on AIFF’s liabilities
Shaji Prabhakaran recalled his last conversation with Mr. Praful Patel. He spoke about the All India Football Federation’s liabilities. They are also equally responsible for the crisis Indian football is facing right now.
“In my last conversation with Mr. Patel, I did tell him that you have certain liabilities in the federation and those were the people. That has also led to this situation. We need to evaluate each position.”
He also suggested that there needs to be a complete sweep in the AIFF. They need to bring in the right competent people and retain only those who have done well. AIFF isn’t engaging in a charitable business. Thus, there is no room to retain employees who haven’t done justice to their position. Eventually, AIFF has to work towards the growth and development of football. The employees of the federation also have to towards the same.