INDIAN football legend PK Banerjee passed away at the age of 83 in Kolkata on Friday (20), after battling prolonged illness.
The Olympian had been suffering from respiratory problems due to pneumonia, and a history of Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and cardiac ailment. He was on life support at a hospital since March 2.
Banerjee was a star player in a golden era of Indian football, with 65 international goals in 84 appearances for country.
One of his most memorable exploits was leading the Indian team and scoring the equaliser against a formidable French team in a 1-1 draw at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Banerjee was also part of the Indian team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where he played a key role in the 4-2 win over Australia in the quarterfinals.
The “perfect all-rounder” played a pivotal role in India’s gold medal victory at the Jakarta Asian Games in 1962, in which he scored against Japan.
He held the record for most number of goals by an Indian (six) at Asian Games, with appearances in Tokyo (1958) and Bangkok (1966), too.
“He was a perfect all-rounder on the field. In those days, no one could think of an Indian team without him,” said former Indian mainstay T. Balram.
Tributes poured in from various quarters. Former Indian captain Baichung Bhutia tweeted his gratitude of “wonderful memories” with Banerjee, who was called ‘PK’.
We have had some wonderful memories. Thank you. RIP PK DA pic.twitter.com/rQPB1hxYZz
— Bhaichung Bhutia (@bhaichung15) March 20, 2020
“He was a pioneer in every sense of the word, and his achievements will forever have a place in Indian footballing history. Rest in peace,” said current Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri in a tweet.
I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. PK Banerjee as well as to the entire Indian football fraternity.
He was a pioneer in every sense of the word, and his achievements will forever have a place in Indian footballing history. Rest in peace.
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) March 20, 2020
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar recalled “fond memories of meeting him on a few occasions and the positivity he spread”.
Heartfelt condolences on the passing of the great Indian footballer PK Banerjee!
Have fond memories of meeting him on a few occasions and the positivity he spread.
May his soul Rest In Peace!🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/NqXO2A91wc
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) March 20, 2020
Former Indian cricket captain and current BCCI president Sourav Ganguly tweeted the same photo with message: “Lost a very dear person today .. someone who I loved and respected enormously.. someone who had so much influence in my career when I was a 18 year old boy .. his positivity was infectious .. may his soul rest in peace….”
Banerjee was among the recipients of India’s inaugural Arjuna Awards in 1961. In 1990, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri.
In 2004, Banerjee was honoured with the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit.
Banerjee is survived by daughters Paula and Purna, who are renowned academicians, and younger brother Prasun Banerjee, a former national footballer and current MP.