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AIFF Approaches Supreme Court Seeking Extension of Tenure of Executive Committee; Anirudh Thapa Stars in Chennaiyin FC’s Win against Jamshedpur (Football Round-up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): The tenure of the current AIFF Executive Committee, headed by President Praful Patel, is set to end next month, but with the failure of a court-appointed body to draft a new constitution, election seems unlikely | Anirudh Thapa and Esmael Goncalves scored for Chennaiyin FC as they beat Jamshedpur FC 2-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) | Mohamed Salah could return for Liverpool in the Champions League match against Atalanta | Return of fans could pose new challenges for English clubs | Congested calendar and injuries to key players has made football less entertaining, says Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
Praful Patel AIFF tenure

The four-year term of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) executive committee, led by Praful Patel, ends in December. As per the National Sports Code, Patel, who has been at the helm for 12 years, is ineligible to stand for reelection.

We could blame the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for many shortcomings. But one thing we cannot do is to blame them for being unconstitutional. For there is no constitution in place, at least not one which follows the National Sports Code and is accepted by the courts. 

The height of it is how the federation honchos are trying to use the lack of constitution to hold onto their chairs. The AIFF has moved an application before the Supreme Court of India seeking continuation of the tenure of its executive committee. The federation said that since the court-appointed administrators are yet to frame a new constitution that could be used to conduct the elections, they are left with no choice but to continue. A FIFA ban is a possibility if the national body is left without an executive committee at the helm.

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The four-year term of the executive committee, led by Praful Patel, ends in December. The AIFF announced earlier that its Annual General Body meeting (AGM) would be held on December 21. The election, going by tradition, would have been held during the AGM. But, the federation had not announced any plan for the elections. It has put the onus, instead, on the Supreme Court.

Patel, who has been the president of the AIFF since 2012, would have been ineligible to stand for reelection as he would have crossed the limit prescribed by the National Sports Code for federations. Now, with the constitution, which was supposed to be drawn by the court-appointed committee comprising former chief election commissioner, SY Quraishi, and former India skipper Bhaskar Ganguly, not yet formulated, Patel and Co. has been given a brilliant foil to hide behind. 

“Due to non-finalisation of its constitution in terms of order dated 10th November 2017 passed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, AIFF is not in a position to conduct the ensuing election, even though the four years term of the Executive Committee ends on 21st December, 2020. Therefore, the federation has approached the Hon'ble Supreme Court vide an application filed on 21st November, 2020,” read a letter written by AIFF general secretary Kushal Das to the presidents of all the member units.

The Supreme Court, in its order, had directed the Ombudsman (Quraishi and Ganguly) to draft and submit a new constitution within eight weeks. That never happened and the administrators appealed to the SC on February 7 this year, seeking time.

Time is what the AIFF is seeking too… To "allow the executive committee elected on 21st December, 2016 in its AGM to continue to hold office till a new executive committee is formed pursuant to an election conducted in accordance with the new constitution ..."

"... and/or pass such order/orders as the Hon'ble Court may deem fit and proper," read the plea by AIFF.

Under the Sports Code, the president of a national sports federation can hold office for a maximum of three terms, or 12 years. Patel, a former union minister, served as acting president for one year after the sudden demise of then president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi in 2008. He took over as full-time president in October 2009 before being re-elected for the top job in December 2012 and 2016.

Chennaiyin Beat Jamshedpur 2-1

Finally, an Indian has joined the scorer’s list in this season’s Indian Super League (ISL). Anirudh Thapa scored in the opening minute of the match to set the tone for Chennaiyin FC's 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC on Tuesday. Thapa's early strike -- a club record and one of the fastest goals in ISL history -- coupled with a penalty conversion from Esmael Goncalves (26’) gave Chennaiyin a winning start to their 2020-21 campaign.

Thapa began the game with a bang with his quick strike, off a cross from Goncalves. Rafael Crivellaro won the ball and found Goncalves on the right flank. His low cross was drilled into the net by Thapa.

The goal immediately put Jamshedpur on the back foot. However, they were not going to sit back and started making inroads into the Chennaiyin half. Jamshedpur's English defender Peter Hartley wasted a golden opportunity to draw his team level in the seventh minute, heading a freekick wide. This pattern of chances and near misses stuck through the match

Three minutes later, Goncalves found himself one-on-one with TP Rehenesh but missed. Lallianzuala Chhangte missed a chance to score in the 20th minute. His first touch, while receiving a brilliant pass from Crivellaro, took the ball away from him, and the subsequent effort was pushed out by Rehenesh.

Chhangte, however, made amends five minutes later, drawing a challenge from Isaac Vanmalsawma inside the box and winning a penalty for his team that was converted with ease by Goncalves.

Last season's golden boot winner Nerijus Valskis pulled one goal back in the 37th minute and the game was evenly contested from then on with Jamshedpur pushing for an equaliser. But a string of misses meant they fell short each time they went forward with a promising move. 

Salah to be Back for Liverpool vs Atalanta

Mohamed Salah looks likely to return to action for Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League match against Atalanta on Wednesday night. Salah had missed Sunday’s Premier League win over Leicester following a positive coronavirus test while in Egypt.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed that his 28-year-old talismanic striker tested negative and had returned to full training with Liverpool’s squad at Kirkby. 

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In all likelihood, Salah would be in the starting XI against Atalanta at Anfield since the Reds are seeking all three points from the match and secure progression into the knockouts of the Champions League. 

“Mo trained with the team yesterday and looked really good. All the tests were negative so now, if nothing changes, he’s available, which is good,” Klopp said. “Now we have to see what we do, because he was quarantined until three days ago.”

Liverpool will, however, be without a host of regulars because of injuries. Captain Jordan Henderson (groin), defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf) will miss out. This is in addition to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez who are out with knee injuries. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago Alcantara are also unlikely to be fit for the game while Naby Keita picked up a hamstring issue against Leicester while Xherdan Shaqiri missed out entirely due to an unspecified muscle complaint. 

Liverpool won 5-0 when the two sides met in Bergamo earlier this month. Klopp, however, is expecting a tough match. 

Return of Fans Pose Fresh Challenges for Clubs

With the British government announcing that fans in limited numbers could return to stadiums in areas with low Covid-19 risk, Premier League clubs are looking forward to having the buzz back on the stands.  However, the return of spectators poses many new challenges for the clubs, including some sides enjoying unfair advantage due to the tier restrictions the government is planning. 

The government will announce on Thursday the regions which fall under the three tiers. Clubs which fall in Tier 3 areas, which contains the strictest restrictions, will not be allowed to let fans into their grounds. Tier 1 region will be allowed to have a maximum of 4,000 fans while Tier 2 areas will be restricted to 2,000 fans.

So, the sides falling under the heavy risk areas will have a disadvantage compared to the Tier 1 sides who will play in front of a home crowd. Some players and managers have been quoted in the media as saying that this is unfair.

Even the clubs that are allowed to have fans in stadiums from December 2 will have to consult the local safety advisory groups and get their go ahead.

Then comes the question of clubs having to get the staff, who were furloughed during lockdown, back to the payrolls. Some clubs have already said that getting the fans back in would not be possible immediately.

Oxford United, who play in League One, English football’s third division, is expected to be in Tier 1. That means their 12,500 capacity Kassam Stadium can host 4,000 fans for matches

“A few weeks ago we submitted plans for a trial game with 1,000 fans allowed in the ground and it may be that we have to be patient just a little longer and trial it with that plan and then step up to a larger number for the next game and hopefully keep building from there,” club managing director Niall McWilliams said.

Clubs are also wary of backlash from fan groups since only a lucky few would be allowed in and many, including season ticket holders, might get left out. 

Premier League club Chelsea said they were working on plans to “accommodate as many fans as possible, as fairly as possible”. Some other clubs have said they will institute some kind of a lottery system to decide which fans get to enter.

Congested Calendar Harming Game: Zidane

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said football’s fixture overload is harming the game. He was talking ahead of Real’s UEFA Champions League match against Inter Milan on Wednesday. Real would enter the fray at San Siro with a depleted squad due to injuries  

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Madrid will be without striker Karim Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos, who are out due to muscle injuries. Key midfielder Federico Valverde is sidelined with a broken leg. Defender Eder Militao and striker Luka Jovic are out with Covid-19, while Alvaro Odriozola is also sidelined.

European football’s congested schedule has created problems for many sides. The new season, barely a month old, has seen many injuries to high profile players already and many managers, including FC Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have come out criticising the scheduling.

“We’ve reached a point where you start to think that with so many matches and so many injuries, the spectacle is not the same,” Zidane told a press conference on Tuesday.

“There are so many games and we had practically no preparation for this season. But I don’t know if our season would have been different with another schedule. We don’t want to use it as an excuse.”

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