Old friends pay tributes to Banerjee

Many of his colleagues and contemporaries like Subrata Bhattacharya, Prasoon Banerjee, Goutam Sarkar, Prasanta Banerjee, Sisir Ghosh, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Monoranjan Bhattacharya were present at the club to pay their last respect.

Mohun Bagan fans

Fans fondly remember the fine effort with which Banerjee charged out to save an attempt from Pele in that exhibition match, watched by thousands, who filled up the Eden Gardens to its capacity. (Represenational picture)   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Mohun Bagan fans paid rich tributes to one of their favourite players Shibaji Banerjee, who passed away late on Sunday evening after suffering a cardiac arrest. Despite being an international, who represented the country on quite a few occasions, Banerjee was known as the goalkeeper who stopped the biggest legend of world football Pele, when the latter came visiting here with the New York Cosmos team in 1977.

Fans fondly remember the fine effort with which Banerjee charged out to save an attempt from Pele in that exhibition match, watched by thousands, who filled up the Eden Gardens to its capacity.

Many of his colleagues and contemporaries like Subrata Bhattacharya, Prasoon Banerjee, Goutam Sarkar, Prasanta Banerjee, Sisir Ghosh, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Monoranjan Bhattacharya were present at the club to pay their last respect when Banerjee’s body was brought there before the cremation on Monday.

A few players of the current Mohun Bagan team, including Sony Norde, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Pranoy Halder, among others were also present to offer their tributes to Banerjee, who was one of the technical committee members of the club. He also was a competent club-level cricketer and played the first division of the Cricket Association Bengal (CAB) league.

Banerjee, 67, left behind his wife and a son and a legion of his admirers who fondly recollected the way he earned the sobriquet ‘tie-breaker king’ for his numerous saves in tie-breakers in the 11 years he played for Mohun Bagan. Banerjee also turned up for East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, but his most memorable outing was with Bagan, where he continued to hold important position till the last day.

“I just cannot believe he is no more as I met him at the house of a common friend a few hours before the news of his death came to me. Considering his stature in the minds of football loving people here, the state should institute an award to perpetuate his memory,” said Subrata Bhattacharya.

Another legendary goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly, who spent a greater period of his career with Bagan’s traditional rival East Bengal, was also present to pay tributes to his one-time opponent. “I played many matches against him but outside the field he was a good friend,” Ganguly said. Legendary Chuni Goswami also paid glowing tributes calling Banerjee a great human being. “I lost a very dear friend,” he said.

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