The footballing legend from Sikkim, former Indian captain, Bhaichung Bhutia on August 19, as the deadline for filing nominations reached its deadline, filed his nomination for the president’s post in the upcoming All India Football Federation (AIFF) elections.
Former captain Bhutia was proposed by his former national teammate Deepak Mondal and seconded by Madhu Kumari, who is part of the electoral college as an ’eminent’ player.
“I have filed my nominations as representative of eminent players. In the wake of the SC decision to allow players I hope the players 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 told PTI.
With a massive setback hitting the country, as FIFA on August 16 suspended India due to “undue influence from third parties” and said the U-17 Women’s World Cup “cannot currently be held in India as planned.
The Supreme Court, which has been directing the AIFF in their reconstruction after ousting of the former president, had said that the electoral college for the executive committee of the AIFF would have representatives from 36 state associations and 36 representatives of eminent football players, 24 male and 12 female.
The players should have played at least one international match representing India and retired from international tournaments two years prior to the date of notification of the elections.
Known as the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ for his goal-scoring prowess, former captain Bhutia, 45, is considered one of the country’s greatest footballers. The charismatic striker was the first Indian footballer to have played more than 100 matches for India.
He retired from international football a few months after playing in the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, having made his debut in 1995.
He had played for top Indian clubs like JCT, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan during an illustrious career, besides also spending a few seasons at English side FC Bury (1999 to 2002).
Speaking to Sikkim Chronicle on the very topic of the elections, said that he was representing ‘eminent players’ and that he was nominated by the ex-Indian footballers, one male and one female (Deepak Mondal and seconded by Madhu Kumari).
Bhaichung Bhutia runs for AIFF President’s Post
“I have filed for the post of the President (of AIFF), as a representative of the players,” Bhutia told Sikkim Chronicle. “Yes, there are a lot of challenges and difficulties that lie ahead, there are a lot of political parties and football organisations that have their own candidates,” Bhutia said naming a few big names who also have filed for the post of president of the AIFF.
The list of big names who have filed for the nominations are in a plethora, like former player Kalyan Chaubey, who has emerged as the front runner in the race for the top job. Chaubey, a former India goalkeeper, who has played for both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, like his illustrious contemporary Bhutia, appeared to be ahead in the race for the top job.
Chaubey is a member of the ruling BJP but what could work in his favour is that his name has been proposed by the Gujarat FA and seconded by the Arunachal Pradesh football association. While the country’s home minister hails from Gujarat, Arunachal’s Kiren Rijiju heads the law ministry.
Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran has also filed the nomination papers for president’s post.
Also filing the nominations are former player Eugeneson Lyngdoh, through the Meghalaya football association, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s brother Ajit Banerjee. Lyngdoh is currently serving as an MLA in the Meghalaya legislative assembly.
With all the prolific names that have been in the nominal race, Bhutia said that, “there are challenges but we’ll still have to wait for Monday, when the SC will give its verdict, in which eminent players were given 50 percent voting rights, that will still stay and continue or not, we’ll only know after Monday.”
With the objections from the old executives from AIFF and FIFA seeing the mess of the organisation body putting a suspension, as the world football governing body FIFA is not in favour of country’s apex body being run by eminent players, with the country’s apex body in a reconstruction of system (that has been endorsed by many footballers), and with the future of AIFF still hanging tentatively waiting for SC’s verdict, the voting rights for players is in a filipendulous state.
“My only concern is that we feel that ex-players will contribute a lot in the field of Indian football,” Bhutia told Chronicle.
He added, “even after the 70-75 years of forming the federation, not a single ex-footballer have been involved, either in state associations or in the AIFF. No footballer has been able to hold a top post to run state or national footballing federations.”
Staying hopeful for SC’s verdict of voting rights for eminent players, Bhutia concluded, “So I think it is a great opportunity for us to contribute for the development of (Indian) football along with the state associations and GOI, Sports Ministry. I hope the SC sticks to its decision by allowing 50 percent voting rights. So, let’s wait till Monday.”