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    AIFF to review Mohun Bagan ban, club stays hopeful

    New Delhi: With as many as 11 I-League clubs reportedly appealing to the All-India Football Committee (AIFF), football's ruling body in India is ready to review its decision to ban Mohun Bagan for two years after the Kolkata club abandoned a match midway last month.

    The AIFF executive committee will meet here on Tuesday and it has been reported that 11 clubs, excluding East Bengal and Pailan Arrows, will submit a letter in which it they have expressed dissatisfaction at the ban. It has also been reported that two former Mohun Bagan players, Manas Bhattacharya and Bidesh Bose, handed a petition to the AIFF president Praful Patel on Monday featuring the signatures of thousands of football fans requesting the AIFF to lift the ban.

    On the eve of the meeting, AIFF secretary general Kushal Das told IANS: "Football is governed by a set of rules. Some time rules can be harsh. The executive committee has been given the powers to look into the decision. Obviously we will look into them. This is the first time that such an incident has happened. Now we have a case where a club cannot play top-flight football for four years and also we want more corporate teams in the I-League. So, somewhere there is a disconnect."

    Citing past incidents, Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra gave examples of teams getting away without such strict punishment after abandoning matches, including a fixture between Churchill Brothers and East Bengal in the former National Football League (NFL). "During a NFL match match Churchill Brothers refused to take the field against East Bengal. The club got away easily. But on December 9 (at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata) we had a massive crowd trouble, and players were not feeling safe. Our key player Syed Rahim Nabi got injured and also had to undergo an operation," Mitra told IANS.

    Das, however, pointed out that the rules of the erstwhile NFL were different from the I-League. "Though the NFL has been re-christened as the I-League, the tournament rules were different. And in that match Churchill refused to take the field. But Mohun Bagan had abandoned the match midway," he said.

    The two-year ban was handed out after Mohun Bagan abandoned the Kolkata Derby in December after their star player Syed Rahim Nabi was hit on the face by a stone hurled from the crowd. Police had to lathi-charge to bring a 95,000 strong crowd under control. Play resumed after 15 minutes but Mohun Bagan refused to come out in the second half. If the ban stays, the club will have to play to second division I-League to qualify for the top division.
    At Tuesday's meeting to review the AIFF decision, Mohun Bagan will be represented by Mitra, the club president Swapan Sadhan Bose, assistant general secretary Srinjoy Bose and finance secretary Debashis Dutta.

    (With inputs from IANS)