| Bhaichung Bhutia appeals for a foul by Japan’s Nakamura Kengo during the AFC qualifier in Bangalore, on Wednesday. (PTI)
Calcutta/Bangalore: The Indian Football Association (IFA) on Wednesday cracked its whip to slap a three-match suspension on Mohun Bagan star Bhaichung Bhutia for arguing with the referee and refusing to leave the ground after being given marching orders during a CFL Premier Division match on September 26.
The game, in which the green and maroons defeated their arch-rivals East Bengal 1-0, ended amid high drama. Two minutes from time, Bhaichung, denied a penalty after a 50-50 exchange with an East Bengal defender, was engaged in a heated exchange with referee Debashish Mishra, leading to his red-card.
Despite being repeatedly coaxed by the fourth referee, the Mohun Bagan striker refused to leave the premises.
In a unanimous decision arrived at after a lengthy meeting between the governing body members, the IFA also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the India captain. In case he fails to pay up, Bhaichung will automatically be banned for two more matches in next season’s CFL Premier Division.
The decision rules out the veteran forward from Mohun Bagan’s last three outings in the ongoing league.
The IFA also issued a caution and directed two Mohun Bagan officials, football secretary Debashish Dutta and physio Robson, not to enter the technical area for one match.
East Bengal, who came in late for the tie, will be given a cautionary letter by the IFA, secretary Subrata Dutta said.
Even though no action will be taken against the referee, the IFA, however, has decided to write a letter to the CRA as to why Mishra didn’t stop the game and ask the police to escort Bhaichung out of the ground.
Meanwhile, during a post-match press conference after India’s 0-3 loss to Japan in the Asian Cup qualifier in Bangalore, Bhaichung sounded apologetic about the entire episode. The India captain, however, made it clear that he would appeal against the IFA move.
“In all probabilities, I am going to appeal against this decision. I won’t commit such a mistake again, though. This was the last time anyone has seen me doing anything like that.
Insisting that he won’t say sorry to the referee, the India captain said: “I am not apologising to the referee, but I am sorry for the entire incident.
“Everyone witnessed what had happened. We were denied a genuine penalty even the East Bengal coach admitted it. Referees do commit mistakes all over the world, but they admit it too,” Bhaichung said.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE FRACAS
• Following an altercation with the referee Debashish Mishra, Bhaichung Bhutia was red-carded during the CFL Premier Division match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium on September 26. The Mohun Bagan striker, however, flouted the rule by not leaving the field as he watched the remaining part of the match from the players’ bench.
• After the match, which Mohun Bagan won 1-0, Bhaichung alleged that the Premier Division title had already been decided in favour of “one particular team.” “All I feel is that there are efforts to ensure that only one team wins it. This is a disgraceful situation,” he told reporters.
• The referee and Match Commissioner’s reports were submitted to the IFA on September 27. IFA secretary Subrata Dutta said the issue would be taken up after the Pujas.
• Two Mohun Bagan officials — football secretary Debashish Dutta and physio Robson — were also implicated in the match officials’ reports. Both were accused of intervening with the fourth referee’s job when the latter asked Bhaichung to leave the ground.
m The matter was forwarded to the disciplinary committee when the IFA reopened after Pujas. The disciplinary committee recommended punishment to Bhaichung.
• An IFA governing body meeting was convened on October 11. Bhaichung was suspended for three matches of the Premier Division and also handed a fine of Rs 50,000. The two club officials were also cautioned and directed not to enter the fencing area in one match.