Indian football legend P.K. Banerjee’s demise on Friday has shocked Bruno Coutinho. The former India footballer and Goa star remembers the Olympian as the man with a ringside view.
One of Coutinho’s first interactions with Banerjee goes back to 1997 when the legend was coaching East Bengal in the Federation Cup. Bhaichung Bhutia’s hat-trick in the semifinal against Mohun Bagan had made the red-and-yellow brigade clear favourites for the title-clash against Salgaocar where Coutinho was the blue-eyed boy. Coutinho had guided Salgaocar to a 2-1 victory with a golden goal.
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“He was very helpful in everything. Not only about football, but in everything you needed. He had a ringside view of the world. He was a man who used to tell you different stories from the world. On the football field, he was a legend. I was in a bit of shock hearing the news today. But overall, what he has done for Indian football is tremendous and everybody will cherish it forever,” Coutinho tells
Sportstar from his residence in Goa.
“The Federation Cup final was 23 years ago. As a coach, he was great. If I was under him, then I would have understood him better but his players really did well under his guidance,” adds Coutinho, who won the Arjuna award in 2001. Coutinho's 'finger on the lip' celebration had silenced all East Bengal fans in Kolkata that evening.
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“I had also met him in Calcutta for the centenary year of East Bengal. He would always come and tell me: ‘Bruno, you are a good player’. And when he would say that, it would mean a lot because it came from him.”