Celebrating P.K.Banerjee's Birthday: 15 facts you must know about the legend

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As the legendary winger turns 81 on Friday, Goal collates facts about the Indian football great that every fan must know...

BY
ATANU MITRA (@Atanu00 on Twitter)

1) Pradip Kumar Banerjee, better known as P.K Banerjee., was born in Jalpaiguri, which is one of the major towns of the northern part of West Bengal. P.K. was the second India international to have hailed from the small town after Runu Guha Thakurta, who was part of the national team squad in 1951 Asian Games. Banerjee completed his school education in Jamshedpur and broke into the national scene appearing for Bihar in the Santosh Trophy.

2) Banerjee's exploits as a winger almost immediately impressed the selectors, and he was included in the national squad for the 1955 Quadrangular Tournament in Dhaka. The  tournament gave India two of its best ever footballers - P.K.Banerjee made his international debut in the first match against Sri Lanka, while rookie Peter Thangaraj donned the national colours for the first time in the following game against Myanmar. India came out victorious in the competition, defeating Pakistan 2-1 in the final.

3) The winger was also included in the India squad in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where the Blue Tigers finished fourth. While many regard this as the best ever performance by an Indian football team, the fact remains that India were seeded directly into the quarter-final after Hungary withdrew in the first round. They defeated Australia 4-1 in the last eight encounter that took place on 1st December, riding a briliant hat-trick by Neville D'Souza. Banerjee chipped in with a couple of assists. They crashed out of the competition after losing to Yugoslavia in the semi-final and Bulgaria in the third-place match.

4) After starting his club career at Aryans, the elegant winger spent the rest of his career at Eastern Railways - a team elevated to the elite league of Indian football. In 1958, the team comprising of Banerjee, Prasanta Sinha et al. lifted the Calcutta Football League (CFL) and remain the last team other than East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting to achieve this feat.

5) Banerjee was also included in the squad for the 1960 Olympics. This was not a good outing for team India as they finished fourth in a four-member group, after losing out to Hungary and Peru. However, on 29th August, India played out an impressive 1-1 draw against mighty France, with P.K. scoring the all-important equalizer.

6) However, it was the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta which is considered to be the pinnacle of his footballing career. India were defeated 2-0 by South Korea in the opening encounter but came back strongly to beat Thailand 4-1 in the next match, with the Eastern Railways player scoring a brace. Chuni Goswami, P.K.Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram - three doyens of Indian football scored in this match. India defeated South Vietnam in semi-final and South Korea in final to lift the silverware with Banerjee opening the scoring in the summit clash.

7) After hanging up his boots in late sixties, he ventured into coaching with short stints at Bata Sports Club and Eastern Railway before being appointed by East Bengal in 1972. However, he was also part of the national team coaching staff in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok along with G.M.Basha, where India won the bronze medal - the country's last podium finish at the continental stage.

8) Banerjee was an advocate of defensive football as his teams liked to sit back and soak up pressure. He stressed on the importance of having a strong defense and keeping the shape intact under all circumstances. Under his guidance, East Bengal won four of their six consecutive Calcutta Football Leagues wins during 1970-75 including a 5-0 win against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan.

9) From 1972 to 1999, the legendary figure served as the coach of one among East Bengal, Mohun Bagan or the national team except for a three year break while being at the helm of the Tata Football Academy (1993-96). He was the coach of the national team in three other Asian Games - 1974,1982,1986. In the 1982 Asian Games held in New Delhi, his troops comprising of the likes of Prasun Banerjee, Shabbir Ali, Bhaskar Ganguly and Bidesh Bose, went down against Saudi Arabia, courtesy a goal in the added time of second half. Had India won that match, they would have got the bronze medal since DPR Korea were disqualified after their match against Kuwait.

10) P.K.'s most memorable club victory came in the twillight of his coaching career in the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final when East Bengal thrashed Mohun Bagan 4-1 in a match that was attended by 1,31,000 spectators. Bhaichung Bhutia scored a hat-trick that afternoon. The joy, however, was short-lived as Salgaocar FC, led by Bruno Countinho defeated the Red and Golds in the final.

11) He won the treble (IFA Shield, Rovers Cup, Durand Cup) with Mohun Bagan in 1977. As player, he finished runners-up in the 1959 and 1964 Merdeka Cups while he won the 1971 Pestasukan Cup and the 1985 South Asain Football Federation's (SAFF) Championship as a coach. Only Arun Ghosh has reached similar heights both as a player and a coach - by winning the 1962 Asian Games as a player and the 1974 Asian Youth Football Championships as a coach.

12) Banerjee has served as the coach of almost all the age-group sides and even travelled with the team in the capacity of a Technical Director. He traveled with the senior team when they toured England in 2000 and played a goalless draw against West Bromwich Albion. He was also a part of the contingent when the India Under-16 visited Leicester in 2004.

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13) P.K. made the headlines for his 'vocal tonic', his inspirational pep talk and served as a great motivator for the players under him. He was a brilliant man-manager and knew a million tricks to get the best out of his players.

14) The former India international is the only Asian footballer to have received the "FIFA centennial order of merit" in 2004. He is also the only footballer of Asia who has been awarded the Fair Play Award by the Olympic Committee. 

15)  When the Arjuna Award was started in 1961, Banerjee was a recipient in the very first year, along with the likes of Ramanathan Krishnan and Salim Durani. He was also conferred the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1990.

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