It was in the early 1950s that newly free India went up against Iran on the football court in the inaugural Asian Games and bagged its first gold medal. Later, the country participated in the Olympics and other Asian Games, and also formed a team for women in 1980, grabbing many shiny medals along the way.

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
India in action at the 1956 Olympics - AIFF BCCL

For the first time ever in football’s history, India has been suspended by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA). All India Football Federation (AIFF) has also been stripped of its right to host the 2022 junior Women's World Cup.

The Under-17 Women’s World Cup was scheduled to be held across Odisha, Goa and Maharashtra in October this year. Many first-time participants, who have been training for years, are now feeling uncertain about their future.

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
Under-17 Women’s World Cup teamBCCL

The ban could still be lifted if a few conditions are met but what led to AIFF’s suspension?

Why has FIFA suspended AIFF?

The governing body of world football announced the suspension citing the "undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes”. The suspension is effective from August 14, 2022 until further notice, according to a letter from Fatma Samoura, Secretary General, FIFA. This will affect India’s international participation.

The troubles began when former AIFF president Praful Patel who was also a FIFA council member, refused to resign from his post as the head of football in the country after his tenure of three years ended in December 2020. Patel is also a member of the Nationalist Congress Party.

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
Praful Patel's tenure ended in December 2020Twitter

FIFA’s rules state that its member federations must be free from legal and political interference. FIFA’s Article 19 also states that each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties. A member association’s bodies shall be either elected or appointed in that association. A member association’s statutes shall provide for a democratic procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment.

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
Timeline of what led to AIFF’s ban BI India

After Patel’s resistance to resigning, AIFF did not hold fresh elections. The matter then went to the Supreme Court, which announced the immediate resignation of Patel and formed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the AIFF and govern the sport. It appointed Justice (retired) Anil R Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr S.Y. Quraishi and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly to the CoA.

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
Supreme Court formed a three-member Committee of AdministratorsBI India

FIFA directed CoA to get new elections underway, finalise the constitution and present it to FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

India is not the only country

India is not the first country to be suspended by FIFA. In 2021, Pakistan Football Federation was banned temporarily due to the same violations. The ban was lifted last month.

Zimbabwe, Kenya, Chad, Benin, Kuwait, Nigeria and Iraq have also been at the receiving end of FIFA’s wrath.

How will it affect India?

Both male and female players won’t be able to participate in international tournaments till the ban is lifted, which includes the 2023 Asian Cup.

In June, India’s football team captain Sunil Chhetri said a ban would be “catastrophic” for the country and him.

“No matter what is happening on that front, I hope it is under control and the country does not get a ban. Because, that will be catastrophic, not just for the whole country but for me, because I’m 37. I’m playing my last games. You never know when there’s a last game for you,” said Chhetri.

Indian professional football club based in Calicut, Gokulam Kerala, has already found itself stranded in Uzbekistan after the FIFA suspension. The team was scheduled to play at the AFC Women's Club Championship.

On August 18, SC asked the centre to take a proactive role and ensure that India is able to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

The men’s team is also scheduled to play Singapore and Vietnam in September and India’s participation in SAFF Women's Championship next month also looks uncertain.

The suspension has not only dampened the morale of players who have been training for years, but it has also disappointed fans who were looking forward to watching the tournament live. The sport is watched by more than 23 million people, says a recent report by Ormax Media.

Will the suspension be lifted?

The suspension will be lifted once the AIFF administration regains full control of their daily affairs, which means no CoA.

FIFA has also told India to form an independent electoral committee. Till then, as far as Indian footballers are concerned, it’s a wait-and-watch game.

Here's a small video

Simply put: Why has FIFA banned India and how will it impact India’s football industry?
Why has FIFA banned All India Football Federation?BI India