| Bhaichung Bhutia at East Bengal tent on Monday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: Bhaichung Bhutia was an emotional man on Monday.
Surrounded by truckloads of die-hard fans who had been waiting and cheering much before he arrived, Bhaichung, in a red T-shirt and blue jeans, stepped into the East Bengal tent after almost three seasons and announced his wish to play for the club till he retires.
I am very touched by this kind of reception. I am here to sign for East Bengal… I may or may not play this year but for the rest of my career I will be an East Bengal player. I want to play for them from the very first match of the season, Bhaichung said soon after signing a one-year contract with East Bengal. The India captain, however, is yet to be released by Mohun Bagan.
Bhaichung, who was suspended by Bagan for six months on June 8, has a three-year contract with the club till 2010.
Bhaichungs contract with East Bengal will not be registered by the Indian Football Association (IFA) until the tiff between the player and Bagan is resolved. The IFA, incidentally, has called a governing body meeting on July 9.
Underlining his resolve to not be the one to blink first in the spat with Bagan, Bhaichung said: I know there are some officials at Bagan who want to finish my career… But I will fight it out. I know that good will prevail over evil.
I have given 17 years to the country, played for so many clubs yet they (Bagan) came out with a six-month suspension…. They want to destroy my career. I am taking up a cause and I will keep fighting till the end. I have faith in the IFA and the AIFF, he added.
Hailing East Bengal, where he started his career, as a club with professionals who knew how to handle their players, Bhaichung said: Look there are problems between players and clubs everywhere around the world… Be it at Manchester United or Arsenal, there will be problems…. Even I had problems with East Bengal a few years back… But the important thing is how they handled the problem. Thats the great character of East Bengal and their officials… They never went to the media with this… Thats the difference between these two clubs, he said.
Bhaichung said he was overwhelmed by the boisterous welcome that led to utter chaos and forced club officials to close the doors of the tent.
I am quite overwhelmed by the reception I got from the fans here. This is just like the one we had after winning the Asean Cup. I thank the supporters and want them to support the team in every match this season.
Urging players to give their 100 per cent to bring those good days back to East Bengal, the 32-year old striker said: I expect the season to be a very good one… As a player, we will give our 110 per cent to see to it that East Bengals great days return. I am really looking forward to playing for East Bengal, he said.
Meanwhile, Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra declined comment on the signing.
I dont want to say anything on this… Let the IFA decide what should be done. But I am sure East Bengal will never be able to control him (Bhaichung).