Finally, some relief for Bhaichung Bhutia —and East Bengal.
The India skipper will be able to don the red and gold jersey in the I-League after arbitrator Amatrendra Sharan granted him interim relief in his suspension row with Mohun Bagan.
East Bengal are in dire straits after first-round exits in the IFA Shield and Durand Cup and Bhutia’s joining the squad is the best gift Subhas Bhowmick’s strugglers could have asked for.
“He (Bhutia) is free to play for the club of his choice subject to an undertaking that if the final decision goes against him, he will have to abide by the order of suspension and also pay Mohun Bagan the salary which he would have earned during the period of suspension,” the All India Football Federation-appointed arbitrator, Sharan told the Hindustan Times on Saturday.
A relieved Bhutia said after the verdict: “I’m happy that I can get back to playing football. I have missed two major tournaments because of this.
“I hope this happens to no one else,” Bhutia said at the East Bengal club where he had gone for some stretching exercises and to tend to a sore hamstring.
Irked by the judgement, Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra questioned the basis of the ruling.
“The AIFF, I am sure, will not take any cognisance of this order.
“What happens if the final order overturns the interim verdict? Will Bhutia be allowed to play for two clubs in one season?
This ruling doesn’t take into account the laws and rules of football,” said Mitra.
When the AIFF’s opinion was sought on the issue, general secretary Alberto Colaco said: “We are yet to receive a copy of the order and, therefore, I cannot comment.”
An East Bengal official, on his part, said that, “truth has prevailed.”