Calling him a ‘father figure’, former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Friday said he played one his best matches under the coaching of P.K. Banerjee who breathed his last in Kolkata. Also Read - Premier League Clubs Lobby Players to Take 30 Percent Pay Hit
It was the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final where Banerjee’s East Bengal hammered Mohun Bagan 4-1 in front of 1,31,000 spectators. The iconic Bhutia netted a hat-trick. Also Read - Coronavirus: AIFF Begins Campaign on How to Remain Fit During COVID-19 Lockdown
“He was a great human being. A very happy soul and a father figure to me,” Bhutia told IANS. Also Read - PK Banerjee's Contribution Unmatched: Former Footballer Harjinder Singh
“I was fortunate to play one of my greatest matches under him. It is a big loss to Indian football. He is one of the greatest footballers and coaches India has ever seen,” said Bhutia.
Banerjee died at a city hospital after battling a chest infection for a long time. He was 83.
A two-time Olympian and the only surviving goal-scorer of India’s 1962 Asian Games gold medal-winning team, Banerjee, the Asian Games gold medallist, was suffering from sepsis and multi-organ failure due to pneumonia on a background of Parkinson’s disease, dementia and heart ailments.
Banerjee represented India in 36 official matches, wearing the captain’s arm band 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 was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri Award in 1990. Banerjee was also bestowed with the FIFA Fairplay Award (in 1990), and the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.
(With agency inputs)