AIFF's demand for justice over referee "error" is the most bizarre of own goals

All India Football Federation President Kalyan Chaubey DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images


AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey.

What's he done?

Written to "the FIFA Head of Qualifiers, the AFC Head of Referees, the AFC Head of Competitions, and the Match Commissioner for the game, requesting them to look into the grave supervision error caused during the game that practically cost us a place in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 3".

What does the AIFF want?

"...we have respectfully requested all concerned officials to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Furthermore, we have urged them to explore the possibilities of sporting compensation to address the injustice."


A controversial goal by Qatar against India in their final FIFA World Cup qualifier. India were leading, and heading into the next round, when Qatar scored. The ball had looked as if it had rolled out of play before being pulled back and squared for the goal - but the referee and his assistants on the night didn't see it and there was no VAR. Qatar went on to score a late winner, which ended India's qualifying campaign.


There's a lot to unpack in that brief statement from the head of the All India Football Federation. Now, an early outburst of anger was understandable. After such a controversial decision in such a high-stakes match, any immediate statements from those involved in it will naturally be fuelled with emotion.

But Chaubey's statement came from the position of highest authority in Indian football, and it came a day after the match, after discussions were held internally.

And what do they hope to achieve by it (for a decision, remember, that in a VAR-less world can go either way no matter who the officials in charge are)?

For FIFA and AFC to give them "sporting compensation". One can only assume they mean a rematch is warranted.

Even if we were completely sure that the decision was wrong, is this something that we don't see in football matches around the world? We just need to travel back a week, to Kolkata, where Kuwait were denied an absolutely nailed-on penalty when India's Anwar Ali got none of the ball and all of the man with a rash tackle in the Indian box in the second half. Should Kuwait have demanded sporting compensation for the obvious error there?

Extending that reasoning further, had India held on for the win, surely the Kuwait FA would have been well within their rights to write to FIFA and AFC complaining about how their two qualifiers against Qatar saw them take on the full might of the Asian Champions while Afghanistan faced essentially the reserve team and India the reserves of that reserve team? Surely the "integrity of the game" has taken a hit there?

This statement then, can only be viewed as one of two things. A naïve attempt by officials so blinkered that they don't understand either the game or the way it's run... or a blatant attempt at misdirection.

For it was not one bad decision that "practically cost us a place" In the next round. We have detailed here how it's more a cumulation of errors that saw India's campaign game after game, but it's not just the coaching and playing staff who need to take the blame.

The federation needs to introspect, big time.

Why, for instance, was Igor Stimac given an extension to his contract before the AFC Asian Cup? If you don't see the fallacy of the call, think of it like this: would you promote a student from 10th to 11th before the boards are taken?

On Wednesday, it became murkier, when news broke that the technical committee had not recommended the extension at all. So, who'd made the call? What was the basis for it?

And that's just one top-level decision. On his taking over of the presidency, Chaubey had laid out a roadmap for the improvement of the game in the country. Now would be the time for the AIFF to set down a marker, look back and see how far they have gotten in the one and a half years since.

Has Indian football really moved forward in this time? What are the decisions being taken to change the status quo, and how many of them are reflecting on the ground? Perhaps that's the statement that should next come from the desk of the president: an 18-month report card on the varied objectives they'd listed out in their detailed (and on-paper very promising) roadmap.

For now, though, this is what we have. "Sporting compensation". Really?

The Indian federation would be much better served putting their head down, accepting full responsibility for the shambolic campaign, and set about correcting it -- while maintaining focus on the 'road map'.

One of those objectives, if you can recollect, was qualifying on merit for the U17 and U20 FIFA World Cups... perhaps it would be wise to start afresh from there?

Or maybe FIFA and AFC should accede to their request, and they should in turn demand Qatar play a full strength XI in the rematch. Maybe it'll take Akram Afif putting in another one of his 'I want to score a Puskas winner today' displays to hammer home the sheer absurdity of all this.