Former India football captain Samar Banerjee passes away

Popularly known as Badru, Banerjee featured in the Indian team for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where India finished fourth.

In his long and illustrious career, Banerjee played for Mohun Bagan between 1952 and 1959. He also guided the Bengal team to Santosh Trophy titles.

In his long and illustrious career, Banerjee played for Mohun Bagan between 1952 and 1959. He also guided the Bengal team to Santosh Trophy titles. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Photo Library

Popularly known as Badru, Banerjee featured in the Indian team for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where India finished fourth.

Samar Banerjee, who captained India to a fourth finish in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics passed away. The 92-year-old footballer was admitted to a city hospital with old age complications on July 27. His condition kept deteriorating as he contracted Covid-19 and breathed his last in the early hours of Saturday.

Widely known by his nickname ‘Badru’, he was greatly revered for his amiable nature and was endeared by all generations of footballers and supporters. Born on January 30, 1930, Badru started his career with Milan Samity before joining Bally Protiva, the club representing his native town in Howrah.

Badru’s talent as a skilful forward came to be widely appreciated and he joined Mohun Bagan in 1952, after a brief stint with the famous Bengal-Nagpur Railway club.

He was brilliant in his studies and got enrolled as a student of medicine in a prominent medical college in the city. But he did not obtain the medical degree as he opted to give it up after three years of study in preference for his first love, football.

His exploits in Mohun Bagan soon earned him a place in the Indian team. His education and leadership qualities made him the captain of the Indian team that reached the semifinals in the Melbourne Olympics, where he played as a withdrawn striker in tandem with Neville D’Souza, who scored a hat-trick against Australia.

India took the fourth spot losing the semifinal against Yugoslavia (1-4) and then the third-place match against Bulgaria (0-3). That was the best-ever performance by India in the Olympics or any other world event, which got Badru Banerjee’s name as the captain permanently etched in Indian football’s hall of fame.

Badru Banerjee became a Mohun Bagan stalwart and stayed with the club for eight long seasons before hanging his boots at the age of 30.

He later took up coaching and went on to manage the Bengal football team, which won the national championship for Santosh Trophy in 1961. After his coaching stint, he went on to become a selector and remained associated with the Indian Football Association for a considerable period.

Mohun Bagan club, which accorded him the highest honour of the club Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2009, offered him rich tributes and his body was kept at the club for the fans to come and pay their respects.

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, also paid her tributes by remembering the great footballer who made India proud. The West Bengal Government honoured Badru Banerjee with the Lifetime Achievement Award in sports in 2017.

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