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Minister plays for Mohun mercy
Madan’s ‘humble’ plea against ban

Calcutta, Dec. 10: The Bengal government will seek leniency for Mohun Bagan, an intervention that stands out because of club officials’ association with the ruling party.

“I will write to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) tomorrow and urge the body not to suspend Mohun Bagan. As sports minister of Bengal and a witness to yesterday’s incidents, I will humbly urge the AIFF to take into account Mohun Bagan’s contribution to Indian football before taking any decision against the club,” Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra told The Telegraph.

The minister’s statement comes at a time the AIFF has sought legal opinion on how to proceed on Bagan’s refusal to play after one of its players, Syed Rahim Nabi, was wounded in a missile attack during a league match against East Bengal. According to rules, a team that refuses to play can be banned up to two years from the national league.

The match commissioner had said in his report that the situation was under control and play could have resumed in the second half. Bagan was trailing 0-1. The match commissioner’s report is considered final but the federation is keeping “all angles” in mind.

It is against such a fluid backdrop that Mitra is planning to write his letter in favour of the club whose president Swapan Sadhan (Tutu) Bose is a former Trinamul MP and his son, Mohun Bagan assistant secretary Srinjoy Bose, is a sitting Rajya Sabha MP who made it on a Trinamul ticket.

For the record and possibly to calm tempers, East Bengal has said it would not like to see Bagan banned. But off the record, East Bengal officials said rules should be enforced.

A serving minister sending an appeal for clemency will mean the federation was being persuaded to take into account factors other than the rules while taking the decision.

Mitra said he would write to the AIFF as the sports minister because the people of Bengal would be deprived if Bagan were suspended for two years.

“If Mohun Bagan is suspended for two years, Bengal’s people would not be able to watch the derby. They will be deprived. For the sake of Bengal, Mohun Bagan cannot be suspended,” said Mitra.

The sports minister is set to write that clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have made great contribution to football in the country. “These clubs have upheld the culture of Indian football over the years. I will urge the AIFF not to take any decision in a hurry,” Mitra said.

It is unlikely that the national federation is unaware of the contribution without a minister having to mention it.

Mitra also backed Bagan’s decision not to play, although the match commissioner had declared the situation under control. “Mohun Bagan had taken an immediate decision. The decision helped control the situation. The situation could have turned critical had the game continued,” Mitra said.

The rules for tough action have been put in place by Fifa to act as a deterrent. But Mitra, who praised East Bengal players for their “sportsman’s spirit” and help to the injured Rahim Nabi, has a solution: everybody in Bengal should take an “oath” that such incidents would not be repeated on a football ground.

“If Madan Mitra creates trouble, he too should be banned from entering the football ground,” Mitra said.