Three players of leading football club Churchill Brothers, arrested for allegedly misbehaving with an airhostess and crew on board a SpiceJet plane, were today granted bail even as the team's owners dubbed the incident as a "conspiracy".
Nigerians Odafe Okolie (25) and Ogba Kalu (20), and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya (20) were arrested last night at the Mumbai airport for allegedly pushing and teasing an airhostess of the SpiceJet flight from Goa to Kolkata. The entire 23-member team alongwith them was offloaded here.
All three were booked for outraging the modesty of a woman, a bailable offence, and granted bail by the police.
"There was repeated misbehaviour by the three players with the female crew who sought the intervention of the senior crew," Ajay Singh, director of the airlines, said.
"The senior crew tried to defuse the situation but the players were extremely abusive. The captain then intervened but the players were very abusive with him as well," he said.
Singh said the captain believed that the security of the crew and the passengers was endangered. "Other passengers were also very concerned about the behaviour of the players and wanted action."
Refuting the allegations, Odafe, the Nigerian striker, who is the highest-paid footballer in the Indian league, claimed the incident happened only because he was a foreigner.
"I was talking with my friend and the airhostess was passing from behind. I did not know she was coming and my hand touched hers and they (the crew) started shouting at me. I also started shouting at them," said Odafe.
The team was on its way from Goa to Kolkata via Mumbai for their I-League match against Mohun Bagan on Friday. The entire team of 23 was offloaded from the SpiceJet flight SG 804 after the incident was reported to the CISF.
According to officials, the three players allegedly pushed one of the female crew members and Odafe tried to fondle her.
"It is four years now that Odafe has been playing for our team. I know his nature. He is a God-fearing man with a wife and child and does not have the habit of going after women. It's hard to believe the allegation," Churchill Alemao, a former Goa Chief Minister and Patron of the club, told reporters in Panaji.
Powered by Odafe's electrifying performance, Churchill Brothers had lifted both the IFA Shield and Durand Cup in one of the most glorious years for the club last year, beating Kolkata's Mohun Bagan on both the occasions.
"Now that we are meeting them again in the I-league, there is definitely someone behind the conspiracy to stop him from playing tomorrow's match," Alemao alleged.
Alemao, a Congress Minister in the Digamber Kamat cabinet, said he was consulting his lawyer and would file a defamation case against the airliner.
Odafe told reporters outside the police station that he was innocent and the airhostess and other crew members were not speaking the truth.
"If it was my country, I would have sued them," Odafe, crowned Most Valuable Player by the All India Football Federation in 2009, said.
"Is there a bedroom in the plane? It was not molestation. One of my player’s hand touched a girl (air hostess) by mistake and he apologised. The crew members later created a ruckus and there was an argument," Joaquim Alemao, president, Churchill Bros, said.
Alemao questioned the decision of the airliner of deplaning the entire team of 23 at Mumbai airport when accusation was against only three of them.