Following the AIFF's ban on Mohun Bagan for two and a half seasons from the I-League, the man at the center of it all - Syed Rahim Nabi - has spoken out on what he thinks of the decision and the punishment meted out by Indian football's governing body.
Speaking in the January edition of football magazine 90 Minutes, Nabi said, "Well, I am not a law maker or one of the AIFF officials. However, I think the AIFF could have given us a temporary suspension and a fine, which would have been enough. But then again, maybe I do not know that much about the rules."
The Mohun Bagan and India star stressed that a decision on Bagan couldn't have been based purely on football, and shot back when asked what he felt about the ruling. He added, "We must consider social reasons as well. Mohun Bagan has a big impact in Bengali society, and one must take note of that as well before such a big decision.
"You tell me, are you happy with the decision? Is it correct for Indian football that a club like Mohun Bagan will not play in the country’s top football competition? What will happen to the players and their families if Mohun Bagan does not play any more in the I-league?"
There were several rumours doing the rounds since Nabi fractured his jaw after a stone thrown from the galleries hit him just before half time during the infamous Kolkata derby in December, one of them being his wish to retire from football.
Nabi acknowledged the occurrence of such thoughts, but insisted that it was only the ones close to him who said it out of emotion after the incident. He explained, "Well, the nature of the incident was such that people at home were heavily affected by it and it seemed as if they wouldn’t like it if I played again. But now that things have calmed down a bit it’s all okay. I’m not thinking of any such thing at the moment."
Out of the various to-and-fro reactions from officials at East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, one that caught the media's attention was a jibe from Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra, that the East Bengal players should not have lifted Nabi and taken him to the sidelines for treatment, as it "wasn't their job". When asked for his opinion, Nabi was frank: "Well, who has said what I don’t know. It could have been said in the heat of the moment. Anyway, what others say is irrelevant. As far as I’m concerned, if I was in the EB players’ situation, my only thought would be to help the guy who is hurt and help him get treatment as soon as possible. That’s my first duty."
Lastly, when asked to give some sort of an opinion or message to the fans, Nabi tried to reach out to both sets of supporters in an emotional plea.
"I have played for Bagan and East Bengal for a total of six years. It doesn’t matter whether EB fans threw missiles or MB fans did; that isn’t the main issue. But why should anyone throw anything? It was a big match, and football is on the up in the country, so why are such things required? Now after the incident, football and Kolkata are being seen in a bad light. Also, such incidents can be fatal as well, you know? So it was a very shameful incident, and hopefully it never happens again. That’s all I can say to supporters, really. Hopefully they feel the same way", he concluded.
We can only hope that supporters do actually share his opinion.