IOA vs AIFF: Legacy pitted against ambition | Football News

NEW DELHI: There’s a fight on in the corridors of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and as it spills out in the open, football could be collateral damage.
Of late, one of the worst kept secrets in Indian sports administration are the growing differences between Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, PT Usha and joint secretary Kalyan Chaubey, also acting CEO, and also, most ironically, recently elected president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
As both spar over whether or not to send the football teams for the Asian Games, one making it a prestige issue while the other fighting off serious loss of face, what’s even more amusing is that both are open and clear BJP ‘appointees’ handpicked under the garb of introducing former sportspersons into administration. So, where there should have been seamless cohesiveness, rifts have appeared. At stake is legacy, pitted against ambition and the more decorated sportsperson may have seen this as an opportune moment to assert authority. “Usha is Usha too. At some level she would not like to be seen as a puppet alone,” a source said.The genesis of the issue apparently runs deep. While the duo seemed united in their tone-deaf comments on the protesting wrestlers showing “indiscipline and tarnishing the country’s image by taking to the streets”, it is the internal matters that are causing the divide. The IOA has been seen as dragging its feet in appointing a CEO despite pressure by the International Olympic Council (IOC) to do so at the earliest. In addition, it has also had to contend with independently-taken decisions – many of them financial – taken by Chaubey as acting CEO.
Reportedly miffed, Usha had, in the first week of July, sent out an advisory on ‘financial prudence’ to her colleagues in the Executive Council of the IOA, seeking streamlining and control of financial decisions, but it’s anybody guess what the message meant. “It has come to my attention that certain decisions/ contracts have been executed without the written approval of the competent authority,” she wrote.
“It is crucial to maintain financial prudence and exercise due diligence when entering into contracts with organisations or individuals,” she had added.
It appears that Chaubey has found himself out of his depth with regards to navigating the IOA. “The IOA is a completely different beast,” an insider pointed out. “You need someone with considerable amount of experience and acumen to work around the many fronts,” he added, alluding to the twin responsibilities the 46-year-old former goalkpeeper and ex-India squad member has agreed to take upon himself but is now probably finding that the reality is much different.
Voices within the football fraternity too often point out to his lack of administrative experience at any level, and as AIFF president his inability to engineer a safe passage for his football teams would result in a great dent to his newly-appointed standing as a sports administrator and football visionary.
The football team, as has been discussed ad nauseam this past week, looks caught in the fine print of Sports Ministry participation criteria, a code devised by the former masters of the IOA led by the all-controlling Narinder Batra. “Batra didn’t even send the football team entries for the 2018 Asian Games because there was no winnability. At least we’ve crossed that threshold this time,” said a source at Football House, expressing hope despite the quagmire at IOA.
Seeking refuge in technicalities is usually the easiest way to dispense with an issue. But sometimes, recognizing the spirit over the letter leads to the bigger picture. The Under-23 football team has been decried as a criminally underplayed outfit, thirsting for exposure of any kind, having last played in 2021.
It is true that the blame lies squarely with the AIFF but to ignore the current performance of the Indian team – where at least seven of the senior team are 23 years or younger – just because an internal ranking system is seemingly set in stone, does grave injustice to not just Indian football but all aspirants of Indian sport.

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