National football federation declares PK Banerjee’s birthday as ‘AIFF Grassroots Day’

New Delhi: The All India Football Federation has declared June 23, the birthday of Indian football icon Pradip Kumar Banerjee, as the ‘AIFF Grassroots Day’, the sport’s apex body said on Friday.

Popularly known as PK, the late Banerjee captained the Indian team in the 1960 Rome Olympics and enjoyed a stellar career as a player before taking up coaching, where he also tasted plenty of success.

Explaining the reason behind choosing PK’s birthday, AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said, “We often forget Pradip da was a teacher par excellence too. Once he hung up his boots, he took up coaching and for the next 30 years, produced an array of players, who excelled at the national and international levels.

“While his role as a national and a club coach is much discussed, the Indian football fraternity cannot forget PK da’s contribution at the grassroots level, his leadership at the Tata Football Academy, his ability to inspire and fine-tune the budding talents.” An exemplary footballer, Banerjee played a pivotal role in India’s historic gold medal finish in the 1962 Asian Games.

In 1969, when FIFA ran its first coaching course in Japan under German coach Dettmar Cramer, known as the football professor in the international circuit, Banerjee enrolled himself for the course and returned home with a first-class degree.

His football coaching course ran on Doordarshan for many weeks.

AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey paid homage to Banerjee, who died in March 2020, and said the federation would strive to honour his memory by ensuring the constant growth of the game.

“No words I use will be enough to honour Pradip da’s contribution to Indian football,” he said.

“He deserves all our appreciation. There are a rare few like him, a great player, a great mentor and a great coach who was filled with passion and always wanted to see Indian football rise.” Born in Jalpaiguri, Banerjee is widely regarded as one of India’s greatest footballers and was the country’s the country’s highest scorer with four goals en route to the triumph in 1962 Asian Games.