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Shanmugam Venkatesh is national team manager, but amid controversy

AIFF OFFICIALS suffered yet another major embarrassment in front of the football fraternity after it turned out that Shanmugam Venkatesh, recently appointed assistant coach to the national team by head coach Stephen Constantine, did not, in fact, possess an AFC A-License in coaching, a minimum requirement in the continent to coach professionally at this level.

This comes after the governing body has significantly tightened coaching regulations in the last few years, going as far as to propose that the practice sessions of I-League clubs be monitored to ensure they do not use the services of any coach who does not possess the license. 

The initiative to correct the wrong came swiftly as Venkatesh was immediately sent off to undertake coursework to obtain an AFC C-License, the first in a three-tier licensing system mandated for professional coaches. British coach Lee Johnson was hired to fill in as assistant coach for the time being. 

But with the World Cup qualifiers only weeks away and a preparatory camp for the national team to begin on 4th June, Constantine did not want to be without his most trusted colleague. Hence, Venkatesh was hired as the team manager, to make sure he can remain with the team and on the bench as India take on Oman and Guam mid-June. Ironically, this step is similar to those that the clubs used to circumvent the license related regulations. Coaching veterans like Subrata Bhattacharya, Subhash Bhowmick and many others who do not possess an AFC license were variously hired as team managers and technical directors by clubs in both divisions, and each time they drew ire from the governing body who were determined to put a stop to such practices. It is interesting to see AIFF use similar loopholes to get around their own rules. 

AIFF has drawn criticism from various quarters in recent months questioning their commitment and competency. The nation's premier knockout cup tournament, Federation Cup, was recently scrapped by the governing body to make more room for ISL. Multiple clubs including the suspended Churchill Brothers and current I-League title contender Mohun Bagan have raised their voice over pending payments. Days ago the appointment of Abhishek Yadav, a player still active in top division football, as Director Scouting, was also criticised by fans and pundits alike. While the Indian Super League has brought in a lot of glamour and cash flow into Indian football, signs suggest the sport at large is still struggling to grow both financially and professionally, and AIFF isn't doing much to help the situation.

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