The Golden Footballer P. K. Banerjee

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P K Banerjee

We pay tribute to the iconic footballe P. K. Banerjee on the occasion of his birth anniversary which was on June 23rd. This article aims to shed light on the life, accomplishments, and illustrious career of P. K. Banerjee.

P. K. Banerjee, fondly known within the Indian football community as PK was an eminent Indian footballer who graced the field as a striker for the Indian national football team during the vibrant decades of the fifties and sixties.

Early life

P. K. Banerjee was born on the 23rd of June, 1936, in the enchanting town of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, where he absorbed the essence of his surroundings. His educational journey took him to the esteemed Jalpaiguri Zila School and later to K.M.P.M. School in Jamshedpur, where he completed his schooling. It was during his formative years that the seeds of his football prowess were sown, as he began playing the sport at a tender age, showcasing his skills for Bihar with astonishing flair.

Playing Career

National: At a mere fifteen years old, P. K. Banerjee made his mark as a footballer representing Bihar in the illustrious Santosh Trophy, demonstrating his talent on the right wing. He went on to proudly represent Railways and Bengal in the same esteemed tournament. In 1953, he embarked on a journey with the Jamshedpur Football Association, making his debut against Hindustan Aircrafts Limited in the esteemed IFA Shield. The year 1954 saw him venture to Kolkata, where he joined the esteemed Aryan Club. His journey continued as he became a stalwart for the Eastern Railway, playing under the guidance of both Bagha Some and Sushil Bhattacharya, who led the team to glorious victories in the CFL in 1958, DCM Trophy in 1957, and Bordoloi Trophy in 1967.

P K Banerjee on ground

International: The year 1955 witnessed his debut for the national team in the Quadrangular tournament held in Dacca, East Pakistan (now Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh), a remarkable achievement at the tender age of nineteen. His dedication to the Indian football fraternity shone through as he represented India in three Asian Games: the Tokyo Asian Games of 1958, the Jakarta Asian Games of 1962 (where India clinched the coveted football gold medal), and the Bangkok Asian Games of 1966. Additionally, he proudly donned the Indian colors three times at the Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur, securing a silver medal in 1959 and 1964, as well as a bronze in 1965.

Olympic: In 1956, Banerjee formed an integral part of the team that etched their names in history, becoming the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals of the Olympics. In 1960, with his father battling cancer, Banerjee took up the mantle of leadership for the Indian Olympics team. In homage to his extraordinary achievements, his Salt Lake residence in eastern Kolkata proudly adorns Olympic rings as an architectural tribute. His autograph, for a time, resonated with the words, ‘Captain of Indian Football Team, Rome Olympics, 1960.’ Notably, P. K. Banerjee showcased his brilliance by scoring in the exhilarating 1-1 draw against France.

Banerjee’s extraordinary partnership with Chuni Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram has solidified their place as the revered “holy trinity” of Indian football. However, recurrent injuries unfortunately led him to bid farewell to the national team and eventually retire from the sport in 1967.

Coaching Career

Compelled by persistent injuries, he regrettably stepped away from the national team, announcing his retirement in 1967. However, his journey continued to unfold as he embarked on a remarkable career as a manager. In 1972, he assumed the role of manager for the revered East Bengal club. Later, in 1976, he joined Mohun Bagan, guiding the team to resounding victories in the IFA Shield, Rovers Cup, and Durand Cup, ultimately achieving an unprecedented triple-crown triumph in a single season. Notably, he also steered the club during the historic match held on the 24th of September, 1977, where Mohun Bagan secured a memorable 2-2 draw against New York Cosmos, led by the legendary Pele. His contributions extended to becoming the national coach in 1972, leading the Indian football team until 1986. From 1991 to 1997, he served as the technical director of the Tata Football Academy, before assuming the post of technical director of the Indian football team in 1999.

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P K Banerjee as the coach


Banerjee stood among the pioneering recipients of the esteemed Arjuna Award, instituted in 1961 to honor outstanding athletes. In 1990, he was bestowed with the prestigious Padma Shri and was honored as the Indian Footballer of the 20th Century by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics). The year 2004 brought further recognition as FIFA presented him with the illustrious FIFA Order of Merit, the highest accolade bestowed by the organization. In 2005, he was hailed as the Player of the Millennium by FIFA. Remarkably, he remains the sole Indian footballer to receive the International Fair Play Award from the Olympic Committee.

PK’s Passing

Pradip Kumar ‘PK’ Banerjee, a two-time Olympian and one of the nation’s most revered footballers, bid farewell to the mortal realm on a fateful Friday afternoon. He departed on the 20th of March, 2020, after a prolonged battle with illness. At the age of 83, PK succumbed to sepsis and multi-organ failure resulting from pneumonia, amidst a backdrop of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and heart complications. Since the 7th of March, he had been under life support at a city hospital. The passing of P.K. Banerjee symbolizes the conclusion of a cherished “golden era” in Indian football. PK, whose multifaceted talent elevated him to a towering presence within the Indian football realm, enriched the sport as a player, coach, administrator, and commentator.

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