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Bitter Bhutia digs in heels

Calcutta: Bhaichung Bhutia blasted the Mohun Bagan brass as “egoistic” and “publicity-hungry” and made it clear that he would rather sit out a year than play under such officials.

Bhaichung, who returned to the city on Monday from a holiday in Sikkim, was in slam-bang mood as he unleashed a series of accusations against “one or two officials who are running the club”.

“My fight is not with Bagan… It’s against one or two officials who are egoistic and publicity-hungry. They are using the club to fight against me though it is their personal agenda,” said Bhaichung.

“I wouldn’t mind sitting out for a year without pay, but I will not play under such people.”

He also clarified that the entire episode was the result of his not taking part in an exhibition match in Jalpaiguri, which, according to him, was inconsequential and unimportant.

“Bagan officials are trying to shift the focus on the reality show which I did, but that’s not the case. It all happened because I didn’t play in an exhibition match, which was organised by a club official. I don’t understand why such a match got so much importance,” he said.

He added: “I was associated with the reality show for the past two and a half months and with the club’s permission. Had it been otherwise, why was I allowed to play during that period and not pulled up earlier? I not only played important games during that period but also played well and scored some important goals. Even the rival coaches, during the AFC ties, praised No.15 (his shirt number). At the end of a gruelling season and with an AFC match still left, even the other Bagan players were not too happy to play in Jalpaiguri.”

Bhaichung slammed the club for questioning his commitment towards the game: “I’m playing for 16 years and am a senior player of the national team. How can they question my commitment? The club had specifically said they were focusing on the I-League, but I still played the AFC matches whole-heartedly. It’s absurd to blame one person for the debacle.”

Bhaichung declined comment on Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa’s silence in the matter and said: “It is his personal decision. But I did inform him before taking part in the reality show.”

According to the India captain, the club officials didn’t discuss the matter with the executive members before sending him the first letter.

Speaking on the ‘men who matter’ at Bagan, Bhaichung blamed them of being “publicity crazy” while neglecting crucial issues. “One or two persons, who are managing the club, are more interested in clicking photos with celebrities. In my two years at the club, I haven’t seen even one constructive move to build a gym in the club,” Bhaichung said.

“These people should look beyond themselves and think for the club. They would be the first to run away when there is a problem. It’s not good for Indian football,” he added.

“It’s a battle between good and evil and I’m confident that good will prevail in the end. I’ve full faith in the All India Football Federation and the Indian Football Association (IFA) and would be waiting for their response,” he summed up.

Meanwhile, later on Tuesday evening, Bhaichung met the IFA secretary Utpal Ganguli.

“Bhaichung met me today and presented his side of the case. I will soon speak with Bagan officials over the matter,” said Ganguli.

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