The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uncertainty over Bagan players

Calcutta: Bhaichung Bhutia, several other Mohun Bagan players and coach Subrata Bhattacharya are unlikely for the early matches in Santosh Trophy. A string of players from the club are expected to be picked by Bengal and other states for the national meet to be played in Manipur from October 17 to November 5.

Mohun Bagan’s argument in this case is not as hollow as they have been in recent times. They are scheduled to play the Champions League second-round away tie against Valencia in Maldives on October 23 and releasing players for Santosh Trophy means they will be left with a depleted side for a crucial match.

“We are likely to miss some players for the October 9 first-leg match here if India goes beyond the first round at the Asian Games. There is no chance of releasing players — for Bengal or for other states — during the away game,” said the Mohun Bagan secretary Friday.

Though the official said the first-leg tie is on October 9, according to an AFC release, the date is yet to be announced. The second match is in Male on October 23. Bengal’s Santosh Trophy campaign begins against Rajasthan on October 20. They play J&K on October 22.

The IFA may accept Mohun Bagan’s demand and dispense with some of their players and coach Subrata for the first few games. “If needed, their players will join the squad later, considering the first two matches are not against tough teams,” said a senior IFA official.

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