South Asia Southeast Asia

PSM, KL Given Boost as ATKMB’s AFC Participation is Thrown into Turmoil

Southeast Asian sides PSM Makassar and Kuala Lumpur City FC were given a huge boost on Tuesday following FIFA’s decision to suspend the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) due to “undue influence from third parties”, which led to ATK Mohun Bagan’s participation in this year’s AFC Cup being thrown into doubt.

Both PSM and KL are set to play out the final of this year’s AFC Cup ASEAN zone on August 24th at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, following their triumphs in the zonal semifinal. PSM survived playing with only nine men on the pitch to edge out Kedah Darul Aman 2-1, while Azri Ghani put in a clutch performance as Kuala Lumpur beat zonal favorites Viettel FC on penalties.

The winner of August 24’s zonal final will advance into the interzone semifinal, which will be played on September 7th. The match will pit the ASEAN zonal final winner against Indian Super League side ATK Mohun Bagan, with the match being played out at Mohun Bagan’s legendary Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

However, the Indian government through their Supreme Court has decided to disband the AIFF leadership in May due to the organization’s failure to hold a proper election to choose its new president on December 2020. In it’s place, the Supreme Court of India have appointed a three-member committee to oversee the day-to-day operations of the AIFF.

A joint-trip to India has been organized by FIFA and the AFC in which the two footballing organizations met up  with AIFF representatives to lay out a roadmap for the AIFF to change their rules and regulations by the end of July as well as holding their presidential election by September 15th.

Despite “constructive discussions with local stakeholders regarding the situation at the AIFF,” FIFA has decided to suspend the federation just over two months after the joint-trip.

“The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs,” said a FIFA statement, as quoted from BBC Sport.

The suspension of the AIFF meant that India’s participation in the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup was thrown into doubt, while Mohun Bagan’s place in the AFC Cup will most likely be voided should the suspension is still in effect past September 7th, the date of the interzone semifinal match. India have also lost hosting rights of this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Should Mohun Bagan lose their place in the AFC Cup, the winners of the Kuala Lumpur-PSM tie will advance straight into the zonal final, where they will meet the winners between Uzbekistan’s Sogdiana Jizzakh and Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions on October 5th.

FIFA member federations are required to be free of any legal and political interference and any form of governmental influence is frowned upon by FIFA. A number of countries have been suspended in the past due to third party influence and interference from governments, such as Brunei Darussalam in 2009, Indonesia and Kuwait in 2015, Pakistan in 2021, and both Kenya and Zimbabwe in 2022.