The All India Football Federation revels in displaying its toothlessness. By deciding to revoke the ban that it had imposed on Mohun Bagan for its refusal to play the second-half of the Calcutta derby in the National League, the AIFF has shown that it is ever willing to give stringent regulations their marching orders. Mohun Bagan’s return to the National League has, however, been facilitated by a set of ‘penalties’. The club has been fined a sum of two crore rupees; it will have to renew its campaign without a single point in the kitty, thereby raising the fearful possibility of demotion to a lower tier; officials have also been asked to submit a written undertaking with the promise that the football club will not engage in such disgraceful conduct in the future. What the federation officials in their infinite wisdom have failed to comprehend is that none of the penalties announced is stiff enough to function as an effective deterrent. Meeting the monetary fine, for instance, would not prove to be too difficult for a club with a legion of affluent patrons that includes corporate sponsors. But a ban for over two seasons from the National League — India’s premier football tournament — would have certainly forced the club to mend its ways and adhere to the rules formulated by the AIFF. Such foggy ideas about deterrents and penalties are likely to embolden other football clubs in India to flout rules with impunity.
The AIFF’s decision is likely to undermine its institutional authority. Influential football clubs now know for certain that the AIFF is likely to wilt when brought under the right kind of pressure. The fact that a sporting body mandated to administer the country’s national football league has chosen to dance to the tunes of one of the participants in the tournament will not only dilute the standards of discipline in Indian football but also bring it further ignominy in the eyes of the international sporting fraternity. The AIFF president stated that the decision to reinstate Mohun Bagan in the league was taken after considering the club’s rich history as well as the sentiments of its numerous supporters. It is a pity that precious little has been done to prevent a section of the club’s officials from trampling on this rich legacy with defiance and hauteur. The celebrations that have now broken out among officials and supporters are a sad reminder that they remain uncaring of the taint on the club’s glorious history.