The former India goalkeeper speaks to TOI about things that need his immediate attention.
Will the AIFF stick with the roadmap for the reform process agreed by all stakeholders, including AFC, in 2019?
You have to see the pros and cons, (besides) feasibility. When there is a regime change, some agreements are always looked at (again). Maybe in certain areas, we have to work on it. We have to take every stakeholder into consideration. Someone has invested a lot, others are losing money. We have to consider all these factors.
What about this season’s I-League champion getting promoted to next season’s Indian Super League (ISL), as per the roadmap?
After getting elected, I met FSDL management and we discussed this subject. But in that meeting, we felt there is still lots that needs to be discussed. Also, with the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup to be organised, we decided to meet and discuss this post the tournament.
Is there no clarity how the roadmap will be implemented?
If you ask me, from the last meeting, I would say we did not come to any conclusion where I can say with certainty that Indian football is going in this direction.
(Kalyan Chaubey, left, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino during a recent meeting in Doha – AIFF Photo)
What about the all-important Master Rights Agreement (MRA) with the marketing partners that ends in less than two years? Will the AIFF renegotiate or will it get automatically renewed, as stipulated in the contract?
That is the most discussed and most talked about topic in Indian football. We have also discussed this. It will take some time to make a policy of how Indian football should go ahead, particularly when there are several queries and doubts on ISL and I-League being together. We need to understand how clubs, who have been investing for 30-40 years, how new clubs who do not have deep pockets like existing ISL (teams), but have passion for football, can survive? There are several things that need to be discussed.
How was your meeting with AIFF’s marketing partners, FSDL, and did they help clear any previous misconceptions?
Yes. I don’t know, maybe, this is a notion in India or maybe with the common man and media, that ISL did not help much in terms of development of Indian football. When I asked this straight question to them, they gave me a presentation of 15-20 minutes. It had highlight areas and I was convinced that improvements have taken place. The FIFA ranking improved, quality of broadcast improved, quality of grounds, quality of life of footballers. We cannot deny that. Things have changed, but yes, we need to do better. The way forward and pace of improvement needs to be discussed.
AIFF previously had two full-time politicians heading the federation. Now, you have taken on a full-time president’s role. Is there any proposal to make this post an executive one like some countries and FIFA, with salary?
Don’t know about a paid president (for AIFF), but I can assure everyone that at the end of the day when I go to bed, I can sleep with a peaceful mind that I have done justice to the responsibility that is on me. I will do everything possible and there will be no time bar. My efforts, sincerity and honesty will continue. For the last two nights, I haven’t slept. Tonight, too, I cannot sleep because I am travelling. During the day, it’s 15 hours of work, meeting stakeholders, government officials. The intention is there. Once you have the (right) intention, god perhaps also guides you in the proper direction. I am not saying that my direction is right, and it will be flawless, but I can say that my intention is right. God will decide whether I am on the right path or not.
Are you leaving your political posts as BJP leader to focus on Indian football?
Even till date, I am BJP Kolkata president and I feel that is a full-time job. That’s a huge responsibility. AIFF president is also an equally responsible job. If I continue with both the responsibilities, then one of this will be neglected. I have only 24 hours, the same as everyone else. I thought, maybe for the time being, I will continue as AIFF president and devote all my time for football development. Rest god will decide what will come in the future.