Barreto issue could cleanse football management
Barreto now hopes that the judge will allow him to return to his hometown in Brazil, to be with his family.sports Updated: Mar 23, 2008 21:28 IST
While Indian football club Mohun Bagan's star Brazilian striker Jose Ramirez Barreto spends time reading the Bible after being caught with a large amount of unaccounted cash at the city airport, the bigger issue that needs to be tackled is the irresponsible handling of the players by the clubs.
Barreto locked himself up in a friend's flat in Highland Park in the eastern fringes of the city after he was arrested Thursday for carrying $20,500 that he could not explain while taking a flight out of India for a holiday in Brazil. He refused to meet anyone and was not even taking calls since he was released on bail the same day.
Sources close to him said that he has spent most of his time reading the Bible.
A religious man, Barreto is always seen sporting a vest, with 'Jesus Loves Us' written on it, under his club jersey. And after each goal he scores, he lifts his jersey to show that sign and points his fingers to heaven in thanksgiving.
For him to be caught with money in excess of what is legally allowed by the customs at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) Airport and being prosecuted under the Customs Act is a very big deal.
Before being taken to Barasat court, he said: "It is like seeing a red card during a match. I am sad. It has never happened to me before."
Barreto has played in Brazil, Japan, Malaysia and India and has never been accused of any breach of law. "I never knew about this law. I didn't even try to hide the money. It is my hard earned money, so I kept it in my pocket. I told everything to the customs," he had said.
According to sources close to him, Barreto now hopes that the judge will allow him to return to his hometown in Brazil, to be with his family.
So why is Barreto in such a soup? Somnath Pal, who is considered to be Barreto's confidante and is usually very busy over his phone, has been evading questions.
Anjan Mitra, Mohun Bagan secretary, and Debashis Dutta, football secretary, are back from their vacation and are looking at papers with legal experts.
"We will sort everything out. It is a small thing," said Mitra.
But the truth is that handling foreign players has always been a trouble for Kolkata clubs and Barreto's issue made it clear again. With a number of foreign players coming to play in the country every year for different small and big clubs, there is no rule book given to these players to understand the law regarding foreign exchange in the country.
There are about a dozen foreign football players in Kolkata and about 30 foreign footballers play for various clubs in the country. Most of them are from Africa, particularly Nigeria, while recently there have been some imports from South America, especially Brazil.
Subrata Dutta, vice president of All India Football Federation (AIFF), told IANS Sunday: "The incident has just shown that the clubs here are miles away from being professional. As for Barreto, I understand he was ignorant of the whole issue. But it was his duty also to know the rules being a professional player."
Another glaring example of such mishandling is the contract given to the players. There is a clause in the contract that states that the club can terminate the contract with a player at any point of time for non-performance or on disciplinary grounds. But there is no clause for the players to leave the club before the contract period terminates.
Sumit Mukherjee, CEO of Football Players' Association of India (FPAI), said: "This is a regular problem. We want the players to approach us. We are willing to help them."
The FPAI, conceptualised by national captain Baichung Bhutia, has been working tirelessly for the players. They have even formed a model contract and sent it to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), through AIFF, for approval.
Once it gets approved there is hope on the horizon. They are also working on a medical insurance issue for the players because after an injury the player gets knocked about both by the club he plays for and AIFF, each trying to pass on the buck.
"We have prepared contract papers. We have sent a copy of the contract to AIFF and also copies to Mohun Bagan and East Bengal for their suggestions. We are also talking to the AIFF regarding the medical insurance," he said.
"We are also in the process of forming a two page guideline for the foreign players on how to deal with money, tax and passport issue here so that problems like this don't arise in future," he said.
"Language is another major issue for the foreign players especially from South America and Africa. They are often misled and never informed about anything. This kind of things are bound to happen," Mukherjee added.
"I had a meeting with AIFF Secretary (Alberto) Colaco on the various issues and he has pledged full cooperation," he said.
So even as Barreto waits for the April 3 date for a final hearing on his bail petition, he could well be the saviour of the others playing their trade in the greens of Kolkata.