Former footballers have suggested a larger role in Indian football for Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who on Wednesday mediated a truce between East Bengal club and their investor, Shree Cement.
“I would love to see her as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president. She will be a huge success despite the fact that she has a busy schedule as a chief minister,” Mohammedan Sporting football secretary and former India player, Dipendu Biswas, told The Telegraph on Thursday.
According to the AIFF constitution, candidate for the president’s post must be a member of the executive committee of AIFF, or president or honorary secretary of a member association for at least four years during the preceding 12 years. Government’s sports code though says the candidate needs just a proposer and a seconder.
Since 2011, Calcutta has grabbed a lot of eyeballs worldwide as a footballing venue.
From Lionel Messi’s first match as Argentina captain in 2011 (Nicolás Otamendi scored in the 1-0 win over Venezuela), to hosting the final of the U-17 Fifa World Cup in 2017 or granting 15-acres of land to the AIFF for setting up a Centre of Excellence in Rajarhat, Mamata is seen as a football-friendly chief minister. In fact, Calcutta is at present playing host to a national football camp after 15 years.
“Post the Tokyo Games, people have been praising Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik for supporting hockey, but very few outside Bengal know what Mamata has done for football,” former India captain Shabbir Ali said from Hyderabad.
Former India goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey, however, doubted if Mamata would be able to do anything for Indian football.
“Given her stature, yes it will be great to see her playing a leading role in the development of the game at the national level. But I think the game in Bengal would be more benefited than Indian football. When Priya Ranjan Das Munshi was the AIFF president, the Big Two of Calcutta football always had their way.”
Chaubey, in December last year, had filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking directives for the AIFF to hold elections at an early date.
As per the sports code, Praful Patel is ineligible to contest elections after completing three terms.
Ajit Banerjee, the IFA president, was coy when asked if he would like to see his sister, Mamata, in the AIFF top post. “I would not be the right person to say anything on this. She loves all sport, not just football.”