Football

P.K. Banerjee, the colossus of Indian football

Capable guide: P.K. Banerjee was a successful coach thanks to his fantastic game-reading ability and excellent man-management skills.

Capable guide: P.K. Banerjee was a successful coach thanks to his fantastic game-reading ability and excellent man-management skills.  

For many of his peers and players of later generation, PK belonged to that realm of excellence which very few footballers in the country have reached.

The demise of P.K. Banerjee signals the passing of the ‘golden era’ of Indian football.

PK, who strode the Indian football world like a colossus with his multifaceted talent, enriched the sport as a player, coach, administrator and commentator.

What made PK a legend was his larger-than-life status both as a footballer and then as a coach. For many of his peers and players of later generation, PK belonged to that realm of excellence which very few footballers in the country have reached.

At a time when football was mostly played in the five-forward system, PK excelled both as a right-winger and a centre-forward thanks to his speed, skill and power.

Teenage prodigy

Showing his talent an early age, PK made his Santosh Trophy debut for Bihar at 15. Scouts from Kolkata (then Calcutta) clubs took note of his precocious talent and he started his club career with Aryan FC in 1954.

In order to support a large family, PK opted to take up a job in Eastern Railway, which was a purely amateurish set-up. Soon after he joined, the Railways team made its way up the rungs of the famed Calcutta Football League and won the title in 1958, the first time a team outside the ‘Big Three’ — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting — had done so.

PK, who earned his National cap in the Quadrangular tournament in Dhaka in 1955, was part of the team that took part in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics where India beat host Australia 4-2 in the quarterfinals — with PK assisting hat-trick hero Neville DeSouza. In the next Olympics at Rome, PK, skippering the side, scored an equaliser to hold France 1-1.

In 1962, India won the Asian Games gold at Jakarta, beating a formidable South Korean side 2-1 in the final with PK scoring once. PK also played in the 1958 and 1966 Asian Games.

His international career ran for a considerable period as he represented India on three occasions in the Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur — where India won silver in 1959 and 1964 and the bronze in 1965. In 1967, PK announced his retirement from the sport.

Transition to coaching

He took charge of the National team and under his stewardship, India won bronze in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1970 — the last time it won a medal in football at the Games. He was also the coach when India participated in Tehran (1974), New Delhi (1982) and Seoul (1986) Asian Games.

He started his club coaching career in 1972 and became extremely popular thanks to his fantastic game-reading ability and excellent man-management skills. He had the unparalleled ability to motivate players with his careful selection of words laced with metaphors and anecdotes.

The passing away of PK has created a void that can’t be filled.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:41:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/pk-banerjee-the-colossus-of-indian-football/article31122174.ece

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