'It's in a complete mess', Bhaichung Bhutia tears into 'free-for-all' AIFF
New Delhi: Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia doesn't seem to be too impressed with the recent formation of a core committee by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), as he feels there is "no trust or coordination" among the current members of the apex body, who have "no idea as to who is doing what".
The AIFF recently constituted a core committee that will manage certain areas of the game in close collaboration with its Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran.
The areas are: Procurement and tendering; budget and financials; infrastructure, office renovation and new project development; new staff recruitment or old staff release; and NFC and club football organisational decisions.
In a free-flowing chat with IANS, Bhaichung (46), the once poster boy of Indian football, shared his views on the issues concerning the sport in the country, particularly the 'mess' in the game's governing body.
"It's a free-for-all in AIFF. What the President (Kalyan Chaubey) is doing, what the Secretary General is doing... There is no communication between each other.
"The way AIFF is being run, I would say it is in a complete mess. You have President Kalyan Chaubey bypassing several state associations and holding tournaments without taking them into confidence.
"We saw that happen in Manipur, where the state association wrote to the AIFF Executive Committee saying they were bypassed when a tournament was held.
"Similarly, they also held a tournament in Sikkim without involving the state association. They held a private tournament where Kalyan Chaubey was present as chief guest. The clubs were not recognised in the state league. So, to me, the Federation is in a big mess," Bhaichung said.
In the first week of May, the President of Andhra Pradesh Football Association, Gopalakrishna Kosaraju, had written to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), seeking its direction to the Department of Sports to conduct a detailed inquiry into the alleged 'irregularities' in AIFF.
While the Department of Sports has since closed the matter, Kosaraju has now filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the decision, terming it as 'erroneous' and 'casual'.
When asked if Kosaraju's letter to PMO against AIFF could be one of the reasons behind the formation of the core committee, Bhaichung said: "I think he (Kosaraju) has written a very valid letter.
"He was very specific about India's withdrawal from bidding for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup men's football championship. How can a President or a General Secretary take such a decision?
"Asian Cup is the biggest tournament for any footballer in India. World Cup is the biggest, and the second is Asian Cup. Even Olympics is not as big because it doesn't involve professional footballers.
"The earlier management had bid, but this new management came and withdrew it and left it for Saudi Arabia. So, this is a very very dodgy deal that has gone through.
To recall, in his letter to the PMO, Kosaraju had said that "India's withdrawal from bidding creates doubts that the President and General Secretary colluded with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation to benefit them in hosting the AFC Asian Cup".
Bhaichung continued, "Soon after India withdrew from bidding, Saudi Arabia hosted the knockouts of Santosh Trophy in Riyadh, which was pointless. You see, it is only a favour and I don't know what favour Saudi Arabia is doing by hosting India's Santosh Trophy matches in Riyadh.
"It's just that India withdrawing from bidding has made Saudi Arabia the favourites to win it. This matter should be investigated by the Sports Ministry. And that is what Kosaraju has also written."
Bhaichung also questioned the credibility of the people who have been included in the core committee.
According to the AIFF letter announcing its formation, the committee comprises N.A. Haris (Chairman), Avijit Paul (Deputy Chairman), Tetea Hmar, Mulrajsinh Chudasama, and Vijay Bali.
"I think the committee itself is very dodgy. See the background of its members... Their contribution to football in India is zero. Even in their own states, it is zero. They have killed football in their states. Now the same guys are in the committee to run Indian football. So how do you expect football to change?
"Avijit Paul (Football Association of Orissa) is not even the president or secretary of his state association. Now, I don't know how he got to represent Odisha. As far as I know, he is some junior joint secretary who has nothing to do with football.
In fact, the state association also doesn't do anything, because the Odisha government does everything. Whatever is being done, is being done by the Odisha government. So what is the football association doing?
"So, I really think AIFF is in a big, big mess," Bhaichung concluded.