Kolkata:In a dramatic development, Mohun Bagan on Monday suspended its captain Bhaichung Bhutia for six months from playing for the club, citing "violation of rules and regulations", which also virtually rules him out of joining any other club.
Bhutia had sought a release from Mohun Bagan after his commitment was questioned by the club in a showcause notice served on him on May 15.
Dismissing his request, the club in its executive committee meeting today suspended the iconic Indian footballer from playing for the club for six months.
"In a unanimous decision, we at our executive committee decided to suspend Bhutia for six months. During this time, he cannot play for Mohun Bagan," senior executive committee member Subrata Mukherjee told reporters.
In his acerbic best, Mukherjee added, "Despite being the captain, he has been defying rules and regulation of the club for a long time and thus breaching his contract. He has been irresponsible not only for practices but in international matches as well."
"In the interest of football, we have taken this decision and set a precedent that he is just like anybody else. Bhaichung may be a great player in India but he is not an institution. Mohun Bagan, being a very old national club, we have taken this decision."
Mukherjee though gave a small room of reconsideration on the decision, saying that the club could relax the suspension on the initiative of General Secretary Anjan Mitra.
"We are not satisfied with Bhutia. We are unhappy especially on the fact that Bhutia chose to ignore the showcause," said Mukherjee.
"If the general secretary feels Bhutia's suspension could be relaxed ... and it has to be ratified in an executive committee meeting again," he said.
Mukherjee said the club would inform the decision to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Bhutia could appeal to the AIFF which, in turn, would direct its Players' Status Committee to resolve the dispute.
Away in Sikkim, Bhutia, who is reportedly in talks with his former club East Bengal, was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, East Bengal Secretary Kalyan Majumdar said Bhutia can join his club only after getting an NOC from Mohun Bagan.
"We are not in talks with him until he gets his clearance. He has to get an NOC first," Majumdar told PTI.
The Bhutia-Mohun Bagan rift started when the star striker missed an exhibition match of the club in Jalpaiguri.
In a strongly-worded showcause on May 14, the club secretary Anjan Mitra had asked the national captain, who recently won a reality show dance competition, to clarify his conduct within 48 hours and has advised him not to join the team practice till that time.
Bhutia, however, chose not to reply to the showcause and in a media conference on May 18 -- on the eve of their AFC Cup match -- announced his decision to part ways with the club.
Three days after declaring that he had no heart to play for Bagan, Bhutia sent a letter seeking immediate release from the club.
But with Mitra holidaying at Darjeeling the decision on the letter was kept pending till the executive committee meeting on Monday.