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Headline: P.K. Banerjee, grand old man of football, dies

Headline: P.K. Banerjee, grand old man of football, dies

Gen Xers of India, pretty much hooked on to the English Premier League or the La Liga, would perhaps not know much of Pradip Kumar Banerjee, the former India captain and coach, who breathed his last at a private hospital in Kolkata after a prolonged illness Friday.

But for those who've followed Indian football closely over the last 50 years or more, the death of 83-year-old P.K. Banerjee has closed one glorious chapter in the history of game in our country forever.

The loss is huge for the entire sports fraternity.

"Lost a very dear person today… someone who I loved and respected enormously… someone who had so much influence in my career when I was a 18 year old boy… his positivity was infectious… may his soul rest in peace," tweeted Sourav Ganguly, former skipper of the Indian cricket team who also currently heads the Indian cricket board.

Banerjee—or P.K. Dada, as he was fondly called—was loved by all.

He was an integral part of India’s gold medal-winning team in the 1962 Asian Games and even scored in the final against South Korea as India fought against all the odds to script a historic 2-1 triumph in Jakarta.

He represented India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and played a pivotal role in the 4-2 victory against Australia in the quarter-finals, where India eventually finish fourth. Furthermore, he captained the National Team in the 1960 Rome Olympics and scored the equalizer against France to help India register a 1-1 draw.

He represented India in 36 official matches, wearing the captain’s armband in six of them. In the process, he scored 19 official goals for the country.

He was also the first Indian footballer to receive the Arjuna Award (in 1961) and the prestigious Padma Shri Award in 1990. In 1990, Banerjee was bestowed with the FIFA Fairplay Award, followed by the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.

“It’s sad to hear that Pradip-da, one of India’s greatest footballers, is no more. His contribution to Indian Football will never be forgotten. I share the grief. He will stay synonymous with the golden generation of Indian Football. Pradip-da, you will remain alive in our hearts,” said Praful Patel, the President of the All India Football Federation.

Banerjee had made his International debut on December 18, 1955, against Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) in the 4th Quadrangular Cup in Dhaka. He scored two goals on his debut as India rallied to win the match 4-3. He ended the tournament scoring five goals, the maximum for any Indian player on his debut International tournament.

He was also part of three consecutive editions of the Asian Games—the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, and the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok. He holds the record of scoring maximum, six, goals in Asian Games for India.

He was also a part of the triumphant Indian squad which won the 4th Quadrangular Tournament in 1955 in Dhaka.

After his retirement, he took up coaching and has been one of the most decorated and successful Indian trainers.

"Mr. P.K. Banerjee was a pioneer in every sense of the word and his achievements will forever have a place in Indian footballing history. Rest in peace," tweeted Sunil Chhetri, captain of the Indian football team.

At the International level, Banerjee began his coaching career as the joint coach of the Indian team in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok, where India won a bronze medal.

He then went on to coach India in the 1974 Asian Games (in Tehran), 1982 Asian Games (New Delhi), and the 1986 Asian Games (in Seoul). He was also in charge as the coach in the Merdeka Cup in 1971, 1973, 1981, 1982, 1986; the Nehru Cup in 1982 (Kolkata), and 1986 (in Trivandrum); the Kings Cup in Bangkok in 1981; the SAF Games in 1985 (in Dhaka) where India finished champions; and India’s tour to UAE in 1981.

In addition, he was the joint-coach in the Pesta Sukan Cup in Singapore in 1971, and in India’s campaign in the 1972 Olympic Qualifiers in Rangoon (currently Yangon).

He also served as India’s Technical Director for the SAFF Cup in 1999 (Margao), where India won gold; the Olympic Qualifiers in 1999; and India’s tour of England in 2000.

As a player at the domestic level, he won the Santosh Trophy thrice each for Bengal (1955, 1958 and 1959), and Railways (1961, 1964, and 1966) scoring 28 goals. He also represented Bihar in 1952 and 1953.

At the club level, he scored 190 goals for Eastern Railways and one goal for Mohun Bagan (on loan in the Rovers Cup).

Banerjee began his coaching career at the club level in 1969 for Bata Football Club, a post he held till 1971.

He then coached both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, winning several trophies for both the famed Kolkata clubs. While for East Bengal he won 30 trophies, he ended up guiding Mohun Bagan to 23 trophies.

Among his many exploits, Banerjee will always be remembered for inspiring Indian clubs to superlative performances against reputed foreign sides. While at East Bengal, he guided the Red and Golds to defeat Pyongyang City Club (from DPR Korea) to win the IFA Shield in 1973, and beat Dok Ro Gang (also from DPR Korea) in win the DCM Trophy.

The 1978 IFA Shield Final, where Mohun Bagan drew 2-2 against Russian Club Ararat, which had several World Cuppers in their ranks, will always be remembered in the list of significant achievements in Indian Club Football’s history.

He was Mohun Bagan’s coach, which held Cosmos (from USA) to a 2-2 draw at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, a match for which Pele had turned up for Cosmos.

He also served as a Technical Director for the Tata Football Academy from 1991-97.

P.K. Dada will be missed..