Friday , February 26 2021

I remember meeting PK Banerjee & Chuni Goswami for the first-time!

Sadly two of the biggest legends of Indian football, P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswami, died just 41 days apart in the last few weeks.

I go back two decades to my early days in Indian football to the month of July in the year 2000, when I first met both P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswami in person during India’s historic tour of England.

Days before India took on Fulham FC in London, West Bromwich Albion in Birmingham and Bangladesh in Leicester, the national team arrived at the Keele University, which was the home base for this trip. P.K. Banerjee was India’s technical director, while Chuni Goswami was a special invitee as both had played their part in enabling Raj Purohit bring Baichung Bhutia to the UK to sign for Bury FC a year earlier.

I played my part on that trip as it came a couple of years after having started IndianFootball.Com and Team India in those days didn’t have a media officer attached to the team, forget the AIFF having a media department, so I flew across from Germany to help out.

And the young me, knowing the legends P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswami were, was reserved and hesitent to interact with them at the start but by the end of the tour, they would become friends like many others in that India squad.

I still remember the first evening with the team. I only knew Baichung in person, but no one else from the squad and I got introduced to all as being a German of Indian origin working in international football. I sat with the Indian national team officials at the dinner table, once done it became an open chat session with Pradipda (P.K. Banerjee) leading the discussions. We spoke not only about football but also politics, the world in general and much more.

This would become an evening ritual for the officials to sit together with once in a while the discussion turning into, who was the best-ever Indian footballer in which P.K. Banerjee would challenge Chuni Goswami for an answer wanting the latter to mention his (P.K. Banerjee) name. On those nights one would get to know both gentlemen.

My contribution to the discussion as the youngstest on the table would be talking about Germany and its football, and my limited insights at the time on Indian football and how I would develop Indian football from my very German perspective. Especially Pradipda would praise the city of Cologne, where the Tata Football Academy used to come for their extended camps, where I sadly never met Pradipda and Chunida though I later got to know about friends of my father having met both while in Cologne.

I learned a lot about Indian football on the tour from living legends of the game, getting to know things about in Indian football in the 1950s and 60s, a lot of private things and much much more…

Since this legendary tour of England, I would meet both Pradipda and Chuni once in a while on my visits to Kolkata or at football events elsewhere in the country.

RIP Pradipda & Chunida!!! We miss you…

About Arunava Chaudhuri

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