New Delhi [India], Mar 22 (ANI): Indian football team assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh said former India captain PK Banerjee was a national icon much before the pinnacle of the team.
"He was a national icon much before India won the 1983 Prudential World Cup. He had that ability to make fans go crazy over him. His ability to motivate players was unparalleled," All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted Venkatesh as saying.
Banerjee breathed his last at a private hospital in Kolkata on Friday after a prolonged illness. He was 83.
Former captain Banerjee represented India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and played a pivotal role in the 4-2 victory against Australia in the quarter-finals where India eventually finish fourth.
"He is an absolute legend of the game. He was technically so gifted back in his playing days. But he was also a very good motivator. He always had the right words for players," said Venkatesh.
Banerjee lead the national side in the 1960 Rome Olympics and scored the equaliser against France to help India register a 1-1 draw. He represented India in 36 official matches, wearing the captain's armband in six of them.
"He has played so many matches at the top international levels, that he knew very well how to deal with pressure situations," said Venkatesh.
Banerjee was also the first 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. (ANI)