It's a conspiracy to tarnish our image: Churchill

Last Updated : 06 January 2010, 11:17 IST

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Nigerians Odafe Okolie (25) and Ogba Kalu (20), and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya (20) were arrested last night at the Mumbai airport for allegedly pushing and teasing an airhostess of the SpiceJet flight from Goa to Kolkata. The entire 23-member team alongwith them was offloaded here.

All three were booked for outraging the modesty of a woman, a bailable offence, and granted bail by the police.
"There was repeated misbehaviour by the three players with the female crew who sought the intervention of the senior crew," Ajay Singh, director of the airlines, said.

"The senior crew tried to defuse the situation but the players were extremely abusive. The captain then intervened but the players were very abusive with him as well," he said.
Singh said the captain believed that the security of the crew and the passengers was endangered. "Other passengers were also very concerned about the behaviour of the players and wanted action."

The entire Churchill team was offloaded in Mumbai due to the in-flight ruckus but Alemao insisted that the furore was the creation of the flight crew. The team was on its way to Kolkata to play against Mohun Bagan in the ninth round of the I-League.

Refuting the allegations, Odafe, the Nigerian striker, who is the highest-paid footballer in the Indian league, claimed the incident happened only because he was a foreigner.

"I was talking with my friend and the airhostess was passing from behind. I did not know she was coming and my hand touched hers and they (the crew) started shouting at me. I also started shouting at them," said Odafe.

The team was on its way from Goa to Kolkata via Mumbai for their I-League match against Mohun Bagan on Friday. The entire team of 23 was offloaded from the SpiceJet flight SG 804 after the incident was reported to the CISF.
According to officials, the three players allegedly pushed one of the female crew members and Odafe tried to fondle her.
"It is four years now that Odafe has been playing for our team. I know his nature. He is a God-fearing man with a wife and child and does not have the habit of going after women. It's hard to believe the allegation," Churchill Alemao, a former Goa Chief Minister and Patron of the club, told reporters in Panaji.

Powered by Odafe's electrifying performance, Churchill Brothers had lifted both the IFA Shield and Durand Cup in one of the most glorious years for the club last year, beating Kolkata's Mohun Bagan on both the occasions.
"Now that we are meeting them again in the I-league, there is definitely someone behind the conspiracy to stop him from playing tomorrow's match," Alemao alleged.
Alemao, a Congress Minister in the Digamber Kamat cabinet, said he was consulting his lawyer and would file a defamation case against the airliner.

Odafe told reporters outside the police station that he was innocent and the airhostess and other crew members were not speaking the truth.
"If it was my country, I would have sued them," Odafe, crowned Most Valuable Player by the All India Football Federation in 2009, said.

"It is four years now that Odafe is playing for our team and was never involved in misbehaviour with women. I know his nature. He is a god-fearing man and has a wife and a child and does not have a habit of going after women. It's hard to believe the allegations against him," Alemao said.
Okalie, Kalu Nnanna and Bhattacharya left for Kolkata along with the team this morning.

"In my political career, people have tried to tarnish my image but I have won the battles against my conspirators. They are trying to tarnish my image in sports field also which I find hard to digest," he added.

Published 06 January 2010, 11:16 IST

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