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Rediff.com  » Sports » I-League clubs release players for India's Caribbean tour

I-League clubs release players for India's Caribbean tour

August 10, 2011 09:18 IST

Three top I-League clubs on Tuesday agreed to release their players for the national squad after initially threatening to call them back, paving the way for Indian football team's tour of the West Indies later this month.

On a day of high drama and changing stands, Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on Monday refused to release their players but each of the two said it would allow their footballers to join the national team if only the other city arch-rivals do it.

Subrata PaulGoan club Dempo were the first club to allow all their nine players to join the national team though under the condition that they will be called back if other clubs refused to release even a single player.

In a development late in the day, East Bengal agreed to release key midfielder Mehtab Hossain, along with Baljit Singh Sahni, Raju Gaekwad and Robert Lalthlamuana.

"We have agreed to release Mehtab after the Indian Football Association (the state body) gave us the verbal assurance," East Bengal Football Secretary Santosh Bhattacharya said after a meeting with IFA officials.

Mohun Bagan followed suit with club General Secretary Anjan Mitra saying, "If East Bengal agree to release their players, my club has no issue and we will also release our players".

Mohun Bagan have three players -- striker Sunil Chhetri, Syed Rahim Nabi and Jewel Raja -- in the national team.

Dempo decided to allow all their nine players to join the national squad at a meeting in the evening after AIFF general secretary Kushal Das called up club president Srinivas Dempo, requesting to release the players.

Dempo, who had earlier shot off a letter to the national federation to send back their players from the national camp, though agreed under the condition that they will recall all of them if other clubs refuse to release even a single player.

"We have decided to release all our nine players as requested by the AIFF in the interest of football in the country. But it is under the condition that we reserve the right to recall all our players if any other club does not release even a single player in the national squad," Dempo said.

The meeting was attended by India coach and Dempo secretary Armando Colaco.

With East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Dempo agreeing to allow their players join the national squad only Pune FC remained adamant with the club saying that their goalkeeper Subrata Paul and striker Jeje Lalpekhlua would not be released.

Earlier in the day, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan stated that they would not release all their players even after AIFF Emergency Committee's plea to release players in the interest of football in the country.

The Indian team is scheduled to leave for the Caribbean tour on August 12 to play three international friendlies with Barbados (August 17), Trinidad & Tobago (August 21) and Guyana (August 24).

The players will return on August 26, leaving them nearly three weeks to join the pre-season camp before the Federation Cup begins on September 17.

The Indian Under-23 team will also undertake an exposure trip to United Kingdom next month to play an international friendly with Pakistan and friendlies with England U-23 and Scotland U-21 teams.

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