The Committee of Administrators (CoA) on Tuesday said it was surprised at FIFA's 'unfortunate' decision to ban the All India Football Federation (AIFF) despite closing in on a consensus on matters concerning the elections and structure of constitution.
In a massive setback for the country, world football governing body FIFA suspended India for "undue influence from third parties" and said the Under-17 Women's World Cup "cannot currently be held in India as planned".
"The CoA is surprised that the FIFA decision has come when extensive discussions were going on for the past few days between all stakeholders, including FIFA-AFC, AIFF, CoA, and the Sports Ministry as per the Order of the Supreme Court," the CoA said in a statement.
"While the CoA was committed to implement the Hon'ble Supreme Court's Order regarding the elections of the AIFF, passed on August 3, 2022, it was also in constant dialogue with all stakeholders.
"In the discussions held among the FIFA-AFC, AIFF, CoA, and the Sports Ministry in the past few days, it was suggested that the present elections of the AIFF Executive Committee may be conducted with the Electoral College consisting of 36 state representatives."
The country is scheduled to host the women's Under-17 World Cup from October 11-30.
This is the first time the AIFF has been banned by FIFA in its 85-year existence, with the Bureau of the FIFA Council saying there have been "flagrant violations of the FIFA Statutes".
The CoA said in its statement, "It was also suggested by FIFA through the Sports Ministry that the EC may consist of 23 members, including six eminent players.
"The 17 members (inclusive of the President, a Secretary General, a Treasurer, one Vice President, and one Joint Secretary) will be elected by the above electoral college. Out of the six eminent players, four will be men, and two women.
"The eminent players may be nominated (co-opted) in the EC and shall have the voting rights, thus making it above 25 percent of the EC."
The Bureau of the FIFA Council said the lifting of the suspension will be subject to repealing of the CoA's mandate in full. In a statement, the FIFA also said it wants the AIFF administration to "be fully in-charge of the AIFF's daily affairs".
The CoA said it made all arrangements as per the Order of the Supreme Court, to conduct the AIFF elections under an independent committee, consisting of eminent and highly reputed election officers.
"This too, is in line with the FIFA letter dated August 15, 2022, which says: 'Concurrently, an independent electoral committee to be elected by the AIFF general assembly to run the elections of a new executive committee'," the CoA said.
"In light of the above, the CoA is surprised by the world body's decision to slap the suspension on Indian football in the midst of discussions going on among all stakeholders to find the best possible solution in the current situation.
"The fact that while the letter dated August 15, 2022, from FIFA stated that Indian football, was being suspended from August 14, 2022, the discussions between the world body and all stakeholders in India were in full swing till late in the day on August 15, 2022."
In the wake of the latest development, the Centre sought an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court on the AIFF matter.
CoA chairman Justice (retd.) Anil Dave said, "It is unfortunate to see such a directive by FIFA during a time when all efforts were being made to put Indian football back on the right track.
"That being said, we are constantly in talks with all the stakeholders, including FIFA, to find the correct solution to this situation, and get the ball rolling once again."
Dave added, "It is really deplorable that for almost last two years, the body, whose term had already been completed, had continued in an absolutely undemocratic and illegal manner, no action was taken.
"But when the Hon'ble Supreme Court passed an order to set things right so as to see that a democratically elected body takes charge, and when the CoA and the Sports Ministry were doing their best for the implementation of the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the order of the suspension was passed by FIFA."
CoA member SY Qureshi, too, expressed his disappointment at the FIFA decision.
"The recent suspension of the FIFA comes as a surprise to us all, especially since we had already found mutually accepted terms. Besides, democratic elections to elect a General Body were already on the way," Qureshi said.
"However, we are hopeful that all problems will be solved to restore normalcy at the earliest," he added.
Soon after the blow, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and A S Bopanna was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that "important development" has taken place and FIFA has sent a letter suspending India which is in public domain and needs to be brought on record.
The development comes after a four-member FIFA delegation had held a meeting with senior sports ministry officials and the CoA on Friday and Monday, respectively.