The Indian football fraternity on Friday mourned the death of the legendary P.K. Banerjee, a fine player and a great coach of his times.
Nonagenarian Samar Banerjee, who played alongside P.K., went down memory lane. “I was the captain of the Indian team in 1956 Melbourne Olympics and P.K. was the right winger. After that the Indian team toured Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and we got very good results… He was a very speedy and positive player, who had the ability to score.
“So many years we have been together. With PK’s death, all those memories are flooding back. He was full of life and jovial. We were all very close to each other…When he fell ill, I went to see him in the hospital and felt very bad seeing him lying senseless,” said Samar.
Subhas Bhowmik, a reputed player-turned coach, admired P.K.’s knowledge of football. “P.K. was technically very sound and had great tactical knowledge. His man-management was immaculate. There are very few great players in this world who also became great coaches. P.K. Banerjee was one of them. I have my doubt that another P.K. Banerjee will be born in our country,” said Bhowmik, who was part of the 1970 Asiad bronze winning squad jointly coached by P.K.
Manoranjan Bhattacharya, another well-known player-turned coach, lauded P.K.’s caring nature. “He understood each and every player well. He communicated well and knew how to motivate the players individually.
“Every year he used to call the players for lunch at his home, where home-cooked food was served.”
Bhattacharya shared an anecdote to stress P.K.’s coaching ability. “In the 1980s, once 14-15 players of the first 18 left East Bengal and practically it was a new team (I was part of that team). Still, we remained almost unbeaten barring the semifinal loss to a South Korean side in the DCM semifinal.”
Subrata Bhattacharya underlined P.K’s tactical knowledge. “Nobody understood better than P.K. Banerjee when to use which player. On several occasions he made me play as a forward (Subrata was known as one of the great defenders of the game). His method of practice was also very good.”
Another well-known footballer, Shyam Thapa, was sentimental. “I am so sad. I was away but I knew he would not die until I reach Kolkata. I reached a few hours ago, just before he breathed his last. He was a great man, a great footballer and a great coach.
“I got name and fame because of him. I became a coach because of him. He was like my Godfather.”
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel said P.K.’s contribution could not be forgotten. “He will stay synonymous with the golden generation of Indian football. Pradip-da, you will remain alive in our hearts,” said Patel.
As a mark of respect, the AIFF kept its flag half-mast at its headquarters in Delhi. West Bengal Government bore the expenses of P.K’s treatment.
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