By stating that the India under-17 team would resume training on February 1 and that the “welfare of the boys” is its “utmost priority” while denying that coach Nicolai Adam has been sacked, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) may be buying time following reports of a decision that could have widespread ramifications given that government money is being used to get the team ready.
That is the impression HT got by speaking to different AIFF officials, all of whom requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of the issue. The reason for seeking time isn’t just because the so-far positive vibes around the under-17 World Cup could be severely hit if Adam is replaced months before the first World Cup India hosts. There could also be the issue of Adam, who would report directly to AIFF president Praful Patel, seeking a hefty compensation.
A third reason could be that the AIFF did not follow rules. The copy of the AIFF constitution updated May 2014 and available online does not list it in the powers of the president or the general secretary.
Speaking to different AIFF officials, HT gathered that hiring or removing a coach can be done only by the federation’s executive committee usually on the recommendation of its technical committee that is now headed by Bhaichung Bhutia.
The written complaint against Adam, appointed in 2015 following an agreement between the German and Indian federations, and his deputy are serious. As are allegations of financial mismanagement on exposure trips Adam planned.
“We Indians are used to taking a lot of rubbish before protesting,” said an AIFF official. It is also true that the AIFF, under Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, had ‘removed’ an India coach after reports emerged that he had hit a player. Both the player and the coach had denied the charge.
There are, however, precedents in the AIFF not following its rules. The unprecedented situation of Mohun Bagan pulling out of an I-League tie against East Bengal was solved by the AIFF flouting competition rules.
Last season, the punishment of a coach was reduced even though it was the minimum according to the AIFF’s rules. So should Adam go because, like former India coach Bob Houghton in 2011, his reputation is at stake, it won’t be a first. It was learnt an AIFF official has been asked to talk to Adam to explore the possibility of him leaving at the earliest.
Given the circumstance, it could be a win-win situation for Adam’s replacement. Already doing the rounds in the AIFF is the name of a technical official whose term ends soon as interim replacement.