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Mallya firm on contesting AIFF presidentship

June 08, 2004 19:36 IST

Just a few days after his outburst against All India Football Federation president and Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya said he would seek "support" of the current incumbent to bag the hot seat of the AIFF.

Dismissing any "hostility" brewing up with Dasmunshi on the issue, Mallya, a Rajya Sabha MP and vice-president of the AIFF, said on Tuesday: "My decision to contest for the presidentship is based on the understanding that during the previous election, he [Dasmunshi] had said it would be his last term.

"There is no question of hostility. On the contrary, I may seek his support in the interest of Indian football," Mallya said over phone from Delhi.

While Dasmunshi, having been at the helm of affairs at the AIFF for over 15 years, pooh-poohed Mallya's outburst, the UB Group chairman stuck to his decision to contest for the post at the coming elections, slated for the end of the year.

"It's not a question of ending the Priya era in Indian football...it's only that I have decided to exercise my democratic right of placing my candidature for the post," Mallya said.

Mallya, who holds fifty per cent stake in Kolkata glamour clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and spends Rs five crore (50 million) as annual football budget of his company, expressed hope of garnering support from others for his presidentship in view of the performances shown particularly by East Bengal.

Mallya's criticism of the AIFF for failing to harness the potential of Indian soccer has stirred up the soccer fraternity in Kolkata, with former players, administrators and coaches expressing varied opinions about a possible change in guard at AIFF.

While soccer legends like P K Banerjee and Sailen Manna preferred to keep mum on the issue, their peer and former Olympian Balaram and veteran coach Amal Dutta strongly recommended that there should be a new face in the top seat of Indian football.

"I have been crying foul over the incapability of Dasmunshi to do anything good for Indian football. He has remained as vice-president and president for over two decades, during which the country has only witnessed a never-ending slide in performance graph and ranking," Dutta, famed for the 'diamond system' he introduced as Bagan coach, said.

He also demanded legislation to bar re-election of an AIFF president for any number of times and appealed that the Board of Control for Cricket in India model be followed.

Balaram, though suspicious about Dasmunshi's 'knowledge and understanding' of the game, said, "There is no point in talking about Indian football. I can only say that this person [Mallya] really loves the game and wants to do something for the better. He has also spent a lot of money on the clubs."

While nobody questioned Mallya's love for the most popular sport in the world or his contribution to East Bengal's dream in international tournaments, voices were raised over ethical issues.

"We cannot allow a liquor baron to take control of a sport like football," Sultan Ahmed, general secretary of Mohammedan Sporting Club, said.

Ahmed, also a Nationalist Trinamool Congress leader, said his club had refused an offer of sponsorship by the UB Group sometime back on this ground.

"If Dasmunshi is too busy with his ministerial job, let there be a professional CEO to run the show," he opined.

Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra, however, had no such prejudice and said he would like to talk to Mallya to know if he has any concrete plan for the development of Indian football.

Former India international and brother of P K Banerjee, Prasun, called for "cooperation and joint effort" by Dasmunshi and Mallya to ensure India's progress in the field.

"I am against removing Dasmunshi, who has taken quite a number of significant steps for soccer's improvement in the country. But Mallya also has his contributions... I will be happy if Dasmunshi remains the president and Mallya takes up as the working president of AIFF," Prasun, who has the distinction of representing the country in maximum number of international matches (189) said.

Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharjee hailed Mallya's intentions but doubted any possibility of rapid improvement in Indian football. "In our set-up, any substantial improvement cannot be made overnight."

Mallya himself, however, sounded confident in his abilities to bring in substantial changes in the way Indian soccer is played and viewed.

"I have shown what Indians can achieve with East Bengal's ASEAN Cup victory and AFC Cup

campaign. I am very much confident that Indian football can be raised to new heights with proper planning and execution."

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