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Bagan ban revoked

Syed Rahim Nabi being carried by East Bengal players on December 9

New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) made a complete U-turn from their earlier stand and revoked the ban it imposed on Mohun Bagan for refusing to play the second half of the 10th round I-League match against East Bengal, in Calcutta, on December 9 last year. Bagan were banned till 2014-15 season.

Instead, the AIFF executive committee, which met in the capital on Tuesday, decided to allow the green-and-maroon brigade’s return to I-League with immediate effect after paying a fine of Rs 2 crore. Bagan, however, lost all the 12 points they earned in the first 10 rounds and will have to start afresh with zero points.

While the Bagan management is certainly happy for being able to return to the league from a position where it was left with very little hope, all their officials have been barred from taking part in any AIFF meeting for the next one year. The club will also have to submit a written undertaking, saying it would not commit any breach of rule in future.

Given the nature of their act of indiscipline and the stringent punishment suggested in the I-League regulations, Bagan have certainly been let off easily by the parent body. According to sources, while several members were in favour of keeping Bagan out at least for the current season, AIFF president Praful Patel turned the issue in favour of the club.

“Mohun Bagan officials left the meeting after making a passionate plea to not to throw their club out. While some members called the decision to impose the ban an exemplary one, Patel said the officials responsible for pulling out the team should be punished and not the players,” said a senior AIFF official.

“It seemed clear that Patel was in favour of allowing Mohun Bagan to return to the field,” another official said. “When members sensed the president’s feelings, they decided to fall in line,” he added. Patel, however, made no secret of his dislike for a couple of Bagan officials and wanted to ban them from AIFF meetings. The Bagan president, it is believed, requested Patel not to name any official and ban all Mohun Bagan functionaries.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said there was political pressure on the AIFF to lift the ban on Bagan. Patel, however, told the meeting that he was under no pressure from any quarter. “It is a setback for those who played a key role in banning Mohun Bagan for two years in the core committee meeting last month,” an executive committee member said.

“At the same time, the decision to bring Bagan back this season did not enhance the prestige of the federation. There was simply no need to constitute the one-man commission.”

Bagan, it was learnt, may request the AIFF to allow them to host the return leg tie against East Bengal in the I-League at a neutral venue.