Even as the mourners started assembling at Jantar Mantar, outside the headquarters of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), tucked away in a distant part of the national capital, a small bunch of people had gathered for an entirely different reason.
The wait lasted almost two
hours, but the decision that emerged at the end of it did not come as a surprise, even though it was sure to sadden the hearts of thousands of fans - the historic Mohun Bagan AC had been debarred from taking part in the I-League for at least three years.
The I-League core committee of the AIFF endorsed the decision of Justice AK Ganguly. In his report, the judge concluded that Mohun Bagan's decision not to play the second half of the Kolkata derby against East Bengal at the Yuba Bharati Stadium on December 9 could not be supported on the grounds of force majeure.
Having breached Regulation 22, the 123-year-old club, AIFF's statement said, has been withdrawn from the current I-League season, with all its past and future matches in the 2012/13 null and void. "In effect, this season will have 13 teams now," said Sunando Dhar, CEO of the league.
A long ban
Additionally, Mohun Bagan have been banned from the next two seasons of India's premier football league. But given that they will have, upon their return in 2015/16, to fight their way back through the 2nd division, the club will be missing from the top flight football till the 2016/17 season.
Worse can follow. At the next meeting of the core committee, to be held on Jan 9, there is the possibility of an extension of the suspension and imposition of "additional sanctions and fines".
While the ban does not cover other domestic competitions including the state league, disqualification from the Fed Cup is implied since qualification for that tournament depends on the club's I-League participation.
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