New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Friday got a former player as its first president in its 85-year history with Kalyan Chaubey beating the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia in the election for the top post here.
The 45-year-old Chaubey, who played as a goalkeeper, won 33-1, a result that was expected as former captain Bhutia did not have many supporters in the 34-member voters' list made up of state association representatives.
The 'Sikkimese Sniper', also 45, is one of the biggest stars in Indian football and his candidature has got the election additional traction.
Chaubey, a BJP politician who lost the last parliamentary election for the Krishnanagar seat in West Bengal, never played for the India senior team though he was in the squad on few occasions.
He, however, played for India in age-group international tournaments. He was also a former goalkeeper at Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, both heavyweights in Indian club football with a rich legacy.
In fact, Bhutia and Chaubey were one-time teammates at East Bengal.
Karnataka Football Association president N A Haris, a sitting Congress MLA, won the election for the lone post of vice-president, beating Manvendra Singh of Rajasthan FA 29-5.
Arunachal Pradesh's Kipa Ajay beat Gopalakrishna Kosaraju of Andhra Pradesh for the treasurer's post 32-1 with one vote being invalid.
Kosaraju and Manvendra proposed and seconded Bhutia.
All the 14 candidates who had filed nominations for as many executive committee members' posts were elected unopposed.
In his first reactions after the polls, Bhutia said, "I will keep working for the betterment of Indian football in future. Congratulations to Kalyan, I hope he will take Indian football forward.
"Thanks to all football fans across India for showing supporting me so much. I've been working for football before the elections, and will continue to do the same. Yes, I'm there in executive committee."
The elections of the AIFF office-bearers brought to an end a sordid saga which saw the ouster of former president Praful Patel for failing to hold polls due in December, 2020, the formation of the Committee of Administrators and its ensuing removal by the Supreme Court, and the suspension of India by world football governing body FIFA for "undue influence from third parties".
The new executive committee comprises G P Palguna, Avijit Paul, P Anilkumar, Valanka Natasha Alemao, Maloji Raje Chhatrapati, Menla Ethenpa, Mohan Lal, Arif Ali, K Neibou Sekhose, Lalnghinglova Hmar, Deepak Sharma, Vijay Bali and Syed Imtiaz Husain.
Bhutia, I M Vijayan, Shabbir Ali and Climax Lawrence will be in the executive committee as players' representatives.