Saudi-led breakaway body: AIFF among 10 to get AFC showcause

NEW DELHI: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is among ten member associations that have been served showcause notices by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for involvememt in a Saudi Arabia-led move to form a South West Asia Football Federation (SWAFF) - that is clarrly in violation of rules framed by FIFA and the continental body.

Hindustan Times, quoting sources, reports that the AFC has showcaused 10 member associations, including India, for attending a meeting in Jeddah last week, in contravention of article 10, clause 1 (p) of the AFC statutes. AIFF general secretary Kushal Das and senior vice-president Subrata Dutta attended the meeting.

The aforementioned AFC clause asks member associations ‘not to form themselves into regional Associations or federations without the consent of FIFA and the AFC’, HT reports.

India, on its part, would receive an annual grant of $500,000 for being part of the body once it gave its confirmation, the said sources revealed to the daily.

Accordig to HT, the replies of the ten member associations to the showcause notices would be put before AFC’s executive committee which would then take a call on whether or not to escalate the matter.

Hosted by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF), the contentious meeting had taken place last Friday and included representatives of United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives but not so surprisingly left out political rivals of Saudi Arabia, most notably Iran and Qatar. 

Other nations to be excluded were Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and South Asian countries Nepal and Bhutan.

Held ahead of Saudi Arabia’s King’s Cup final, the meeting had discussed the formation of SWAFF. According to a press release published on Saudi sports newspaper Arriyadiyah, the new body would be led by Saudi football chief Adel bin Mohammad Ezzat and ‘will launch a series of programs and competitions aimed at raising the level of Asian football’.

Some reports speculate that the birth of new SWAFF came to the fore due to a rift in the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) between Jordanian president Prince Ali bin Al Hussian (which he heads and includes Saudi Arabia as a member) and Saudi authorities after the former turned down offers to shift WAFF's headquarters from Amman to Jeddah. Prince Ali is a former FIFA vice-president who challenged former president Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential election of 2015.

Other media reports have speculated that the new alliance is being driven by the Saudis due to the festering political and economic conflict it has going against Qatar, which is due to stage the next FIFA World Cup in 2022, besides the motive of undermining the status of AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain. 

Pertinently, Jordan had refused to cut off ties with Qatar following a Saudi-led blockade of the country.

Pawn in west Asian tussle
It has further come to light that the decision to attend the meeting in Jeddah was made without the knowledge of the AIFF executive committee or the Union sports ministry, HT reports.

The executive committee hasn’t met since AIFF was dragged into a legal wrangle over its election last year.

When asked if AIFF had consulted the sports ministry, given the political hue of SWAFF, Dutta told the daily that the AIFF would ‘follow the directions of AFC’.


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