Kolkata:Breaking his silence over the six-month suspension Mohun Bagan slapped on him, Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Tuesday said he would sit out for 12 months rather than play for a club "managed by a couple of egoistic and publicity crazy officials.
Bhutia, also skipper of the Kolkata giants, lamented that after this unpleasant episode, any footballer would think twice before joining Mohun Bagan.
"If this can happen to me after serving for about 17 long years (in top flight football), you can imagine what will happen to a youngster," the iconic player, who returned to Kolkata on Monday after holidaying in Sikkim, told reporters.
"Till now, I've had many battles on the field, but off the field this is for the first time I am fighting and I am doing this for the interest of football and young players," he said, but underlined that his fight is not against the club.
"I am making it very, very clear that it's not a fight with Mohun Bagan. It's with one or two egoistic or publicity crazy officials who are handling the club, (and) have some personal agenda against me," Bhutia said without naming Bagan General Secretary Anjan Mitra.
Reacting to Bhutia's comments, Mitra said for the club the chapter of the Bagan captain was over. "Bhaichung Bhutia's chapter is now closed ... if he wants, let him reopen his case," Mitra said.
On the allegation that the club officials were egoistic and publicity crazy, Mitra said, "Mohun Bagan does not feel to comment on anything and everything he (Bhutia) says."
Bhutia was showcaused on May 14 through a strongly worded letter by Mitra who alleged that the star striker was too preoccupied with other activities like television shows and was not committed to the cause of the club, which, he said, was the main reason behind its failure to win the I-League.
Bhutia, however, claimed his participation in the show was not the reason for his suspension as the action was taken two and half months after he first appeared in the show.
"For two and half months, they never objected nor they complained anytime. I took part in all the matches with a good performance and won number of matches and even the Super Cup.
"It all happened when I skipped an exhibition match at Jalpaiguri at the end of the season. I don't know why so much importance is given to that match," he said.
After the showcause, Bagan executive committee on June 8 slapped Bhutia a six-month suspension without pay, a decision challenged by the Sikkimese to Indian Football Association (IFA) through his lawyer Usha Nath Banerjee.
Banerjee wrote to the state football association to step in and either "sustain" or "set aside" Bhutia's suspension.
Asked whether he would talk to Mohun Bagan to sort out the matter, Bhutia said, "I don't want to comment on this now. I have full faith in the IFA and AIFF. Let's see what happens next."
Bhutia also alleged that the Bagan officials were not focusing on football in running the club.
"If you enter the club, you will see the photographs of officials posing with celebrities on the wall. These photographs are increasing day by day as the officials are busy with this, ignoring football development work."
"There is no great player of the past in their list of officials. I sincerely hope that good days return to Mohun Bagan soon," he said.
The Bhutia-Mohun Bagan rift started when the star striker skipped an exhibition match of the club at Jalpaiguri.
In the May 14 letter, Mitra had asked the national captain 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 later, he sent a letter seeking immediate release from the club. But with Mitra holidaying in Darjeeling a decision to suspend Bhutia was taken on June 8 by the executive committee of the club.
IFA is expected to take a decision on the Bhutia representation this week.