New Delhi, May 12 : The All India Football Federation will celebrate June 23, the birthday of legendary player Pradip Kumar Banerjee, India’s captain in the 1960 Rome Olympics and popularly known as PK, as ‘AIFF Grassroots Day’ to promote the sport throughout the country.
The AIFF Grassroots Day is in keeping in line with the Strategic Roadmap ‘Vision 2047’, which seeks to increase grassroots participation in the country. The aim is to engage 35 million children in football by 2026 and up to 100 million by 2047, the federation announced on Friday.
Explaining the reason behind choosing PK’s birthday, AIFF Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran said it is a well-known fact that PK was an exemplary footballer, who played a pivotal role in India’s historic gold medal triumph in the 1962 Asian Games.
“However, 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 level. 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 whenever with the junior National teams,” said Dr. Prabhakaran.
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, PK enrolled himself on the course and returned home with a First-Class degree. Among many firsts he achieved as a coach was a football coaching course he ran on Doordarshan for many weeks, the AIFF informed in a story on its website.
The Federation has announced the Blue Cubs programme which will collaborate with NGOs, schools, clubs, academies as well as various other stakeholders to expand the grassroots ecosystem.
AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey paid homage to PK Banerjee while announcing the AIFF Grassroots Day 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 was quoted as saying on the AIFF website. “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. Celebrating his birthday as the grassroots day is a tribute from our end to recognise his contribution to the game.”
Dr Prabhakaran emphasised the importance of the Blue Cubs programme itself. “We want more children to take part in the game and the Blue Cubs project is keyed towards increasing participation at the grassroots level.
“That in itself will also be another way for us to honour the legend, PK Banerjee. It is perfect to celebrate the grassroots day on his birthday because his contribution to Indian Football is huge. In this way, we will recognize his contribution to Indian Football as well as grow football at the grassroots, create a vibrant culture and develop a good ecosystem for the sport in India.”
Born on June 23, 1936, in Jalpaiguri, Banerjee is widely regarded as one of India’s greatest footballers and was India’s highest goalscorer with four goals en route to the gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games.
In a glittering international career, Banerjee played two Olympics (1956, 1960) and three Asian Games (1958, 1962, 1966) and was the first footballer to receive the prestigious Arjuna Award in the year of its inception, 1961. He was conferred with Padma Shri in 1990. He passed away on March 20, 2020, in Kolkata.