Pradip Kumar Banerjee: The brightest star of Indian football
Pradip Kumar Banerjee, popularly known as P.K in Kolkata football is a former legendary player of India and legendary coach Kolkata giants, Mohunbagan and Eastbengal celebrates his 80th birthday on 23rd June.
He was born on 15 October,1936 in Jalpaiguri of North Bengal. He started his football career in the prestigious Santosh trophy for Bihar in 1954. P.K started his club career at Aryan in 1955. Then he joined Eastern railway, where he spent the rest of his career. He won the Kolkata league with Eastern railway in 1958. He was the most elegant winger of his generation.
His eyegasmic performances for Eastern railway earned him his first call to Indian team in Quandragular tournament in1955 against Myanmar. India won the match by 2-1 and P.K was praised for his play.He scored his first goal against Ceylon(present Sri Lanka) on 18 December,1955 and helped India to win by 4-3 margin. He was also selected in the team which finished fourth in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. In the first match of India against Australia P.K provided two assists for Neville De Souza as India went on to win the match by 4-1 margin. P.K also represented India in 1960 Olympics at Rome. India could not repeat their impressive result like that of Melbourne Olympics and finished 4th in the group stage after suffering defeat in the hand of Peru and Hungary. However in the last match against France, India fought valiantly and equalized through a goal of P.K. P.K displayed the best performance of his career in 1962 Asian games at Jakarta. After facing a 2-1 defeat in the hand of South Korea in the first match India came back strongly and defeated Thailand by 4-1 through two goals of P.K, one from Chuni Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram each.
P.K-Chuni-Balaram formed the most dangerous trio of Asian football and are still regarded as ‘Brahma-Bishnu-Maheshwar'(Indian gods) of Indian football. India defeated South Vietnam by 3-2. In the final against South Korea P.K gave the lead in 17minutes of the match. Jarnail Singh scored another three minutes later. India won the match by 2-1 and won the silverware. P.K also represented India in Merdeka cup thrice in Kuala Lampur. He won silver medal in 1959 and 1964 and bronze medal in 1965. However due to injuries his glorious playing career came to an end in 1967. P.K Banerjee scored 20goals in 84games. After retiring P.K started learning coaching under Dietmarr Kramer and got his coaching license .
He coached Bata sporting club and Eastern railway for a short period. In 1972 he was apponted as the coach of East Bengal club. His appointment as coach started the golden period of East Bengal. P.K won 4 Kolkata league in 1972,1973,1974,1975, 4 IFA shields in 1972,1973,1974,1975,1 Durand cup, 3 Rovers cup in 1972,1973 and 1975. In the final of IFA shield of 1975 East Bengal thrashed arch-rival Mohunbagan by 5-0. In 1976 P.K joined Mohunbagan, the arch-rivals of his former club. Then Mohunbagan was full of chaos and has not won any major trophy since 1969. P.K started building team with talented young players like Subrata Bhattacharya, Prasun Banerjee(P.K’s brother), Alok Mukherjee, Bidesh Bose, Ulganathan and Manash Bhattacharya, Shibaji Banerjee and experienced players like Shyam Thapa, Mohammad Habib, Mohammad Akbar and Subhash Bhowmick. P.K used his famous man-management skill and vocal tonic to encourage the players doomed by constant defeat and succeeded in winning the Kolkata league, Rovers cup and IFA shield. In the next year Mohunbagan under P.K won the treble i.e Durand cup, Rovers cup and IFA shield. Mohunbagan also invited Cosmos club comprising of legendary Pele, Chinaglia and many other formidable stars of football. The match ended 2-2.
In 1978 Mohunbagan won the Federation cup under P.K. used various formations like 4-5-1(against Pyong Yong in 1973 IFA shield Final), 4-2-4 at Eastbengal in early 1970s and Mohunbagan in later 1970s,5-4-1 formation(against Ararat club of USSR in 1980 IFA shield). He also used 4-3-3 formation in 1980s. Being a lethal winger himself,P.K used to intiate his attack through wings and his team always consisted of speedy and skilled wingers. He also emphasized on breaking the opponent attack in midfield. Gautam Sarkar under P.K became one of the most feared defensive midfielder of India. P.K also served as a coach of the Indian team in 1970 Asian games and won bronze medal.
In the 1990s P.K coached Eastbengal and Mohunbagan on various occassions. During this time his biggest achievement was the winning of Federation cup,1997 as Eastbengal beat Amal Dutta’s ‘diamond’ Mohunbagan by 4-1 as Bhaichung Bhutia scored hattrick and became the first player to score hattrick in a derby match since 1936. P.K also served as technical director of TATA football academy from 1993-1996. In 1990 P.K. Banerjee won the honorary Padmashree award. He is the first recipient of Arjun award in 1960. He is the only Asian footballer to win Fair Play award at Olympics. He is the only Asian coach to win FIFA Centennial order of merit in 2004.