Kolkata :His suspension dispute with Mohun Bagan is yet to be resolved, but India captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Wednesday donned the East Bengal jersey and practised at their club tent for the first time this season.
Bhutia, who has a year's contract left with Mohun Bagan, went through the drill for close to one and half hours this morning.
The national captain, who recently guided India to the Nehru Cup triumph, was seen giving pep-talk to his teammates including captain Syed Rahim Nabi, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Harmanjot Singh Khabra among others.
East Bengal football secretary Santosh Bhattacharya said Bhutia had taken permission to practice with the club from the AIFF-appointed abritrator who is dealing with the Bhutia-Bagan impasse.
"He has sought permission from the arbitrator (former solicitor general Amarendra Sharan). He (Sharan) has clearly said Bhutia is 'free' to practice for any club to maintain fitness," Bhattacharya said.
Bhutia did not talk to media after the practice. Coach Subhas Bhowmick, who is under fire, after the team's debacle in IFA Shield and Durand Cup also did not comment.
The club is in talks with former JCT player Abel Hammond while Julius Akpele, who played for Mumbai FC last season, has confirmed that he would join the side.
"Julius is joining us and the side will get a boost with Yusif Yakubu's arrival on October 29," Bhattacharya said.
Having suffered four consecutive losses at the start of the season to crash out of Shield and Durand Cup, East Bengal have released their foreigner trio of Jan Berger, Sebastian Omar Monesterolo and Edmilson Marques.
The Bagan-Bhutia deadlock has been dragging since June when the ace Indian striker was slapped with a six months suspension without pay on disciplinary grounds.
After his row with Mohun Bagan, Bhutia did not waste time to switch allegiance to his former club East Bengal and the national captain attended the club's practice earlier occasions but never practised with red-and-gold teammates.
The dispute between Bhutia and Mohun Bagan is now pending before the arbitrator, Sharan, after Indian Football Association (West Bengal football body) and All India Football Association (AIFF) failed to resolve it.
Sharan has already heard both the parties and a decision is yet to be given.