Bhaichung surprised by lift on Bagan ban - report

The former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan player feels that the decision to lift the ban on Mohun Bagan defies reason....
January 15, 2013. A day which is observed as Army Day all over India. But for Mohun Bagan fans it was the day that was to decide whether they would be away from India's top tier of football for a good 4 years or not. The Kolkatans' prayers were answered as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) chose to revoke the two-season ban imposed on the Mariners after they were found guilty of violating I-League rules during the Kolkata Derby on December 9, 2012.

The Green and Maroon however will be allowed to contest the remainder of the ongoing season, but will have to start with 0 point. They have also been imposed with a hefty fine of Rs 2 crore in addition to a ban on its officials from attending any federation meetings for a year.

The decision was met with mixed response all over the country. While some felt the AIFF had acted sensibly, others felt that the ban should not have been revoked and that the AIFF were coerced into making such a decision from officials, politicians and former players.

Bhaichung Bhutia, who had represented both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in his stellar career, expressed surprise over the decision to revoke the ban. The 35-year old was of the opinion that if the decision to ban Mohun Bagan for two seasons was ridiculous, then revoking it completely defies logic. This was after United Sikkim, a part of the Indian Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA), had supported that the ban on Mohun Bagan was a harsh one!

"I'm happy for the players and the fans as I have played for the club. However, the officials responsible for bringing the club to disrepute are being let off leniently. I feel the quantum of suspension on the officials is too little," said Bhutia to The Times of India.

"This seemed like a criminal escaped punishment only by paying a penalty!" the former Bury FC player told The Telegraph on Tuesday.

East Bengal too hit out at the AIFF for revoking the ban. This was in stark contrast to their claim that the ban on the Mariners was too harsh. But what may have incensed Bhutia about the decision to revoke Bagan's ban is the fact that the number of relegation slots will remain the same despite the ban on Air India and ONGC FC for not fulfilling the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Licensing criteria.

The norm is that two teams will go drop into the I-League's Second Division if they are relegated. A ban on Mohun Bagan would have implied that only one team will be relegated thereby increasing United Sikkim's chances of avoiding the drop.

Bhutia also felt that the fine of Rs 2 crores was almost the same as the annual salary of many a player in the I-League and that the officials of the club should have been fined too. Bagan were banned under violations of Section 22(c) of the I-League charter that stated that a team could be banned for two seasons if they withdrew in the middle of the match for reasons other than those under the blanket of a 'Force Majeure' situation.

When asked about whether he thought the law was draconian, Bhaichung said "I don’t want to delve into the argument whether the rule 22 (C) is draconian or not. But I believe that football has to grow in the country. And hopefully, this incident will not portray the game in a wrong way. We should be careful that the game does not become a pawn in the hands of those who have money."

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