P. K. Banerjee's former wards hail his tactical brilliance, vocal tonics and compassion

P. K. Banerjee's former wards Shyamal Banerjee, Bidesh Bose and Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, look back at the cherished memories they made with their coach.

Shyamal-Banerjee-with-PK

"More than my coach, he was my guardian. I was like his son," - Shyamal Banerjee (L) on legendary Indian footballer P. K. Banerjee.   -  Facebook

For former Mohun Bagan captain Shyamal Banerjee, the news of legendary Indian footballer P. K. Banerjee's demise brought about “an immense shock”.

Shyamal, currently a local councillor in West Bengal, might have turned his attention towards politics, but his social media handle still carries innumerable sepia-tinted pictures from his playing days. Needless to say, most of those were taken alongside Coach P. K., as the two-time Olympian was fondly called. “I still cannot believe it. Pradip da going away... I feel emptiness around. And no, it is not just football I am talking about. More than my coach, he was my guardian. I was like his son,” Shyamal says.

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Shyamal, who had won the Mariners the Durand Cup in 1984 under P.K.’s tutelage, also played for India when the latter coached the team between 1972 and 1986. He doesn’t forget to mention P. K.’s famous ‘vocal tonics’, which he believes did many players and teams a world of good. “We have, as a club, as a team, and as individuals, faced a lot and that’s where Pradip da’s vocal tonic came in... the inspirational quotes and anecdotes to help boost our confidence. He will always be the greatest Indian coach ever. I am lucky to have known him,” adds the former defender.

He recollects the time he was dropped from the national side due to a hamstring injury ahead of the 1982 Asian Games. “I think I am not wrong in saying this but maybe Pradip da was more disappointed than I was because I was ruled out for about a month. He used to say ‘We missed you. You should have been there with us,' after each match,” says Shyamal, whose best performance came in an IFA Shield match against Soviet side FC Ararat in 1978.

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It was in the same match P. K.'s tactical brilliance saw him bring on rookie Bidesh Bose just as it started to rain. Bose’s lightning pace on the muddy pitch baffled the Ararat defenders and Mohun Bagan clawed back from trailing 0-1 to snatch a 2-1 lead. “Although the match ended in a 2-2 draw, what mattered to us was we managed to hold back a team which had four World-Cuppers. And all of the credit goes to one man: Pradip da,” says Bidesh.

He adds, “I feel like I lost someone from my family. Pushing all those memories to the back of the head, knowing he is no more, is going to be so difficult,” he says.

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Former India captain and goalkeeper Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, who finished his international career with over 50 caps, said, “I am very sad to hear about the passing away of the legendary P. K. Banerjee under whom I played two Asian Games and a number of international tournaments. He was a very energetic, jovial and highly knowledgeable person.”

‘Brahma’, as P. K. called him, suffered a fracture during an Asian Games practice match at Patna in 1981 between the India Blues and India Pink. And as always, he found P. K. by his side. “I enjoyed my time under P.K. sir; he had a truly professional style of coaching. He was there during the match and came to my rescue immediately after, looking after me and saying encouraging words to me. I had always enjoyed his training for nearly seven to eight years.”

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