Kolkata: Mohun Bagan club on Saturday urged the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to reassess the two year I-League ban imposed on it and blamed the referee for the December 9 Derby fiasco.
Hours after the AIFF kicked out the city soccer giants from the glamorous league for abandoning their match against East Bengal mid-way following crowd trouble, Bagan general secretary Anjan Mitra said the decision has hurt millions of soccer lovers and announced it would move an appropriate forum after an emergent executive committee meeting later.
"We will decide on moving an appropriate forum after discussing the matter in our executive committee meeting. We will also consult our lawyers before we decide whether we will move a court of law or the AIFF," Mitra told media persons at the club tent here. He hoped the AIFF will "rethink" its decision after a "reassessment", in the interest of "football, Bengal football and Indian football".
Attacking the referee of the December 9 game, Vishnu Chauhan, Mitra said the AIFF should have taken strong action against him for making a mess of his work. Trouble started in the match, which saw a turnout of over one lakh supporters at the Salt Lake Stadium, with Bagan trailing 0-1.
Protesting against a foul given against his team, Bagan's Okoli Odafa charged towards the referee and argued with him, following which he was given the marching orders. Things flared up and missiles rained from the galleries. A stone hit Bagan's Syed Rahim Nabi, who bled profusely from near his right eye and had to be hospitalised. The match resumed after a 13-minute halt, but at half time, Bagan officials held a meeting and announced they would not play any further.
"He [Chauhan] did not have the ability to supervise such a big game. He had never supervised any game which had saw an attendance of even 10,000," Mitra said. "There was crowd violence. Our player was hospitalised. But still he continued the match. In future, if there is again crowd trouble during a game, now no club will withdraw after seeing our predicament. Then if the game continues and untoward things happen, then the responsibility will be on the AIFF," he said.
Mitra said the life of a player or any other person on the ground is more important than a match. Referring to the violence at the Eden Gardens on August 16, 1980, that claimed 16 lives during another East Bengal-Mohun Bagan game, he said, "Unfortunately, we are not giving due importance to a person's life".
Mitra, who faced an angry demonstration from hundreds of Mohun Bagan supporters, who shouted slogans against him when he was entering the club tent, said, "They have every reason to be agitated after such a big decision against the club. But I appeal to them not to do anything which may precipitate matters. We live in a civilised society. They should be patient".
Bagan boasts of one of the largest fan bases in world football, and the club on Saturday saw tumultuous scenes as the supporters expressed their frustration, wept and raised slogans against the officials.
Club legend and skipper of the 1962 Asian Games winning Indian team Chuni Goswami called upon the officials to put in their papers for having "brought Mohun Bagan to such a pathetic situation". However, a large number of Mohun Bagan supporters and members also vented their anger with the AIFF, saying it was a conspiracy to "finish our club and Kolkata football".
"We would not have felt so bad if our club was fined or given a lesser punishment. But banning for two years from the I-League is too harsh. What will happen to the players?" asked a sobbing youth.
On the other hand, East Bengal said they never wanted their arch-rivals to be banned but put the blame on the present Bagan management for having "run away midway into the game".
"They should have understood the implications," said East Begnal vice president Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta.