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Indian Football Legend PK Banerjee Passes Away

The  former Indian captain and coach represented India at the quadrennial event twice, in the 1956 and 1960.

Updated
Football
3 min read
PK Banerjee passed away at the age of 83. PK Banerjee is seen in this picture standing between Chuni Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram.
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Indian football legend and two-time Olympian PK Banerjee has passed away. He was 83.

Banerjee was suffering from respiratory problems due to pneumonia and had an underlying history of Parkinson's disease, dementia and heart problem. He has been on life support since 2 March and breathed his last at 12:40pm.

He is survived by daughters Paula and Purna, who are renowned academicians, and younger brother Prasun Banerjee, a sitting Trinamool Congress MP.

Coach PK Banerjee (right) with Shyam Thapa.
Coach PK Banerjee (right) with Shyam Thapa.
(Photo: Twitter)

51 Years Dedicated to Indian Football

Born on June 23, 1936 in Moynaguri on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Banerjee’s family relocated to his uncle’s house in Jamshedpur before partition.

The 1962 Asian Games gold-medallist's best days as a player coincided with Indian football's golden era.

His contribution was duly recognised by FIFA which rated him India's greatest player of the 20th century, bestowing him with the Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.

From his debut for Bihar in the Santosh Trophy as a 16-year-old in 1952 to a stint as Mohammedan Sporting coach 51 years later, Banerjee takes leave as one of India's greatest.

A member of the holy trinity, that also included Chuni Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram, Banerjee was the last surviving scorer of the 1962 Asiad gold-winning team.

Another one of his bright moments with the national team was a fourth-place finish at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where India beat Australia 4-1.

In the final of the 1962 Asiad, India prevailed in front of a hostile crowd angered by chef de mission Guru Dutt Sondhi's remark that it was 'Jakarta Games', for barring countries like Taiwan and Israel.

Banerjee scored the opener in that game.

He was captain of the Indian team that last played the Olympics in Rome 1960. He retired as a player in 1967 after being laid low by recurring injuries. But then went on accumulate a staggering 54 trophies as a coach.

He pulled off a heist as Mohun Bagan coach when they famously held New York Cosmos 2-2 in an exhibition match starring Pele in 1977.

The star of Indian football when the sport was at its peak, Banerjee never played for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, representing Eastern Railways all his life.

"Chakri charle khabo ki (What will I eat, if I quit)," was Banerjee's famous answer to not playing for the 'Big Two'.

Having started off his Kolkata club career with little success at Aryan FC, Banerjee was rejected by Mohun Bagan after a "disastrous" exhibition match against the legendary T Aao-led Manipur.

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In Aryan too, he was an "outcast" and then coach Dasu Mitra would shower him with the choicest of abuses, something, Banerjee said, had played a part in shaping his career.

"I was seriously thinking of leaving Kolkata and returning to Jamshedpur when Bagha Shome, one of the most respected coaches then, offered me a job in the Indian Railways and an opportunity to play for the Eastern Railway."

The rest, as they say, is history.

A FIFA-certified coach, Banerjee had a coaching career as illustrious as his playing one, beginning with Bata SC and Eastern Railway.

Having struck gold as a player, a young 35-year-old Banerjee was made a joint India coach with G M Basha, and they delivered a bronze at the Bangkok Asiad in 1970.

Within a year at the helm, Banerjee guided India to a joint triumph at the Singapore Pesta Sukan Cup in 1971.

East Bengal won five CFL titles on the trot under his tutelage.

He also delivered at Mohun Bagan, guiding them to a treble -- IFA Shield, Rovers Cup and Durand Cup -- in 1977.

He was coach of the Mohun Bagan that famously held the then Soviet Union team, Ararat Yerevan, in the 1978 IFA Shield final.

Back at East Bengal, Banerjee oversaw their famous 4-1 win over the arch-rivals in the 1997 Federation Cup semifinal.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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