Pradip Kumar Banerjee, 83, popularly known as PK, - the life and voice of Indian football for over five decades - breathed his last week at a hospital in Kolkata after a month-long fight with illness. “He was suffering from multi-organ dysfunction and sepsis. “We put him on ventilator support for more than two weeks and tried to revive him. But despite our best efforts, it was not possible,” Dr Kunal Sarkar, a member of the medical team set up to oversee his treatment, said.
The coronavirus-induced restrictions didn’t allow the hearse to be taken to the Maidan and the Big 3 clubs, which gave birth to the legend of the man since he arrived here as an 18-year-old. “Given the unusual situation we are going through, the family decided to take the hearse to his residence and from there straight to the crematorium at Nimtala. We respected their decision,” said state sports minister Aroop Biswas, who supervised all arrangements.
As the legend set off on his last journey in a somewhat strange backdrop, many of his students - who flourished under him and went on to decorate Indian football with their exploits - recalled PK’s legacy. “I lost my father when I was just four. Dada (brother) brought me up in such a way that I never missed my dad,” Prasun, himself an Indian international and current MP, said.
It’s this sense of gurudakshina which saw the likes of former internationals Satyajit Chatterjee and Krishnendu Roy accompanying the hearse all the way from the hospital. PK was draped in his India blazer when the police-escorted hearse reached his residence. “There was nobody like Pradip da. There will be nobody like Pradip da,” Subhas Bhowmick, one of his famous pupils, said.
The state government honoured the legend with a gun salute at the Nimtala crematorium. As Mihir Bose said: “He’s gone. And we are here to tell his tales. He will live on.”