AIFF back and forth robs it of authority

Soon after learning that Mohun Bagan's two-year ban had been revoked, an East Bengal official said he would donate his spine to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The remark was made in a light vein but the sarcasm wasn't lost.

In less than 20 days, the AIFF has taken a landmark decision, revoked it and then taken another. First, they red-carded Mohun Bagan from the I-League for two years for refusing to continue the derby against East Bengal. The federation had deemed that violation of the rule book would not be tolerated. Now, the decision to reverse the ban, stating that the laws can sometimes be too harsh, has made a mockery of that very rule book. Bagan will, instead, pay a 'hefty' fine of Rs 2 crore and restart the season with zero points. While the amount is by no means meagre, its worth certainly seems lost on a club that pays its captain Okolie Odafa the same amount.

What prompted the AIFF to take the drastic U-turn is worth pondering. The federation argues the I-League would have lost its sheen without the Kolkata giants. Fair point. Bagan boast of a rich history and its fans add colour to the tournament. But if the Italian Serie A could survive without Juventus, the Scottish Premier League can do minus Rangers, then I-League could live without Bagan too. The initial ban was harsh, no doubt. But going back on the decision entirely is being very lenient, robbing the body of any resolution and purpose.

In the same meeting on Tuesday, the AIFF decided to expel Air India and ONGC at the end of this season. for being unable to meet the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) club licensing criteria. The contribution of these two clubs to Indian football has been immense. However, because of these two erring clubs, India was missing out on a chance to have a representative in the prestigious Asian Champions League. Air India and ONGC are hopeful AIFF will soften its stand. Going by precedent, it is just a question of when.

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