The former Indian captain, coach and technical director PK Banerjee passed away in Kolkata today after a prolonged illness. He was 83. The 1962 Asian Games gold medal winner was suffering from respiratory problems and was on life support since the second of March.
Born in 1936 in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, Pradip Kumar Banerjee represented Bihar in the Santosh Trophy when he was 15. He then moved to Kolkata in 1954 to play with Aryan FC before settling down at Eastern Railway. Although Eastern Railways FC was an amateur side, PK helped them win the Calcutta Football League in 1958 breaking the hegemony of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan SC.
In fact, after Eastern Railways won in 1958, it took 61 years for a team outside the big three to win the CFL again – Peerless SC in 2019.
PK made his debut for the Indian National Team at the age of 19 in the Quadrangular Tournament in Dhaka in 1955. He then went onto represent India in two Olympics (1956, Melbourne; 1960, Rome) and three Asian Games (1958, 1962, 1966) in a period referred to as the golden era of Indian football (1951-1962).
India would finish fourth in the Melbourne Olympics and in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Banerjee was named captain of the NT for the tournament. He went onto score the equaliser which helped them to 1-1 draw in the match against France.
The Indian NT then went onto win the gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta and the gold is considered one of the crowning achievements of the National Team. In the 1966 Asian Games, PK scored six goals and was the top goalscorer for India. During his playing career for the Indian National Team, PK scored 65 goals in 84 international matches.
At the domestic level as a player, PK won the Santosh Trophy thrice for both Bengal and the Railways.
After hanging up his boots in 1967, PK took to coaching. He was appointed coach of the National Team and led them to a bronze in the 1970 Asian Games. He also coached the side during the 1974, 1982 and 1986 Asian Games. Banerjee also ended up managing both the Kolkata powerhouses – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. He helped East Bengal to 30 trophies which included a record fifth CFL title in 1975. With Mohun Bagan, he won 23 trophies and helped them to a treble in 1976 – the Durand Cup, IFA Shield and the Rovers Cup.
For his contribution to Indian Football as a player, coach and administrator, PK received a host of accolades over the years. He was the first footballer to be awarded the Arjuna Award in 1961 and was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1990. He was also bestowed with the prestigious FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.
PK Banerjee is survived by his two daughters Paula and Purna who are academicians and younger brother Prasun Banerjee who is a Member of Parliament.