New Delhi, October 30: India and six other members of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) on Tuesday (October 30) pulled out of the newly-formed Saudi Arabia-led bloc with immediate effect in support of the Asian Football Confederation's President Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa.
Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the other SAFF nations to sever ties with South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) on the eve of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) congress in Kuala Lumpur.
Former Saudi Arabia Football Federation chief Adel Ezzat was made president of SWAFF and later decided to contest against Al Khalifa for the AFC top position. "The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) comprising Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan unanimously decided to pull out of the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) with immediate effect on Tuesday, 30 October 2018, in a meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia," the All Indian Football Federation said in a statement.
"The withdrawal precedes the expected official recognition of AFC’s five Regional Federations by the AFC Congress on Wednesday, 31 October 2018," it added.
The SWAFF was formed in August with 14 member countries in it. Ezzat was made president while the AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta became the vice president of the new regional football body in its first general assembly held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
An AIFF official said that Ezzat's intentions to stand against Al Khalifa in the April 2019 elections of the AFC was the reason behind the pull-out from the SWAFF. He said the SAFF members have been told by Al Khalifa, who is likely to be re-elected as the AFC president, that it would be better for them to pull out of the SWAFF.
"Adel Ezzat is likely to stand for the AFC presidency next year and he has expressed his desire to do so. So, we cannot remain under the SWAFF which is headed by Ezzat," the AIFF official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
"The SAFF members have got enough indications from AFC chief Al Khalifa that they should pull out of the SWAFF if they have to support him," he added. The SWAFF is also likely to receive official recognition as one of the regional federations during the AFC Congress on Wednesday (October 31).