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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Arunachal jitters delink Fifa from Santosh Trophy, decision puts AIFF in a spot of bother

The sources said AIFF would like Fifa to get associated with the tournament from next season at a 'non-controversial' venue

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 24.12.23, 06:30 AM
AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey.

AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey. AIFF

Fifa will not be associated with the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy this season, it has been learnt. And the reason, sources said, is the venue.

The final round of the Santosh Trophy is slated to be held in Arunachal Pradesh in February-March next year. The sources said that Fifa, football’s world governing body, is aware of the diplomatic implications it could have vis-a-vis China’s stand on the northeastern state.

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Fifa’s decision has put the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a spot of bother. It has now sent a fresh proposal for Fifa to consider. The sources said AIFF would
like Fifa to get associated with the tournament from next season at a “non-controversial” venue.

In an executive committee meeting held in early November, AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey had announced that the Santosh Trophy would have Fifa as prefix.

“I am happy to announce that after having discussions with FIFA, the Santosh Trophy will now be known as the Fifa Santosh Trophy. This entails that a team of FIFA officials will come to have a meeting with Arunachal Pradesh officials on the conduct of the tournament,” Chaubey had said then. “We also expect the Fifa president (Gianni Infantino) to be present for the final on March 9 or 10,” he had added.

The latest development would come as an embarrassment for both the AIFF president and the treasurer, Kipa Ajay. Kipa is also the secretary of the state football association. Arunachal Pradesh is seen as Kiren Rijiju’s bastion and Kipa is a close associate of the Union minister.

Chaubey on Saturday argued that he had just shared the information about Fifa’s possible involvement with the EC (executive committee) members and it was not “official”. “There was nothing official. We had just lobbed an idea to Fifa about its association with a prestigious tournament like Santosh Trophy. So how can one say that the world governing body has distanced itself from the tournament this season? There is a high chance that Fifa will be with us from next season and that would be a huge boost for the tournament,” Chaubey told The Telegraph.

However, some officials wondered if AIFF had jumped the gun and made the announcement without Fifa’s consent. “Was Fifa told that Arunachal would be the venue? That’s the question members should be asking the top bosses now,” a senior official said.

Sources said the AIFF was hush-hush about Fifa’s problem with Arunachal Pradesh as a tournament venue because of the wushu controversy that rocked the Hangzhou Asian Games in September-October.

India had lodged a strong protest with China over Beijing barring three wushu players from traveling to Hangzhou for the Asiad. Three martial arts athletes from Arunachal Pradesh were forced to pull out of the Asian Games as they did not get the clearance from the host country.

As a mark of protest, Union sports minister Anurag Thakur had cancelled his visit to Hangzhou.

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