In a move that signifies the deep respect and admiration for one of Indian football’s greatest icons, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has officially declared the PK Banerjee’s birthday as ‘AIFF Grassroots Day’ on Friday, May 12, 2023.
Pradip Kumar Banerjee, commonly known as PK Banerjee, born on June 23, 1936, was a legendary Indian footballer and coach. He led Indian team in 1960 Rome Olympics. His extraordinary skills, passion for the game, and tireless efforts in promoting football in India have left an indelible mark on the nation’s sporting history. He also enjoyed a stellar career as a player before taking up coaching, where he also tasted plenty of success. The AIFF’s decision to commemorate PK Banerjee’s birthday as Grassroots Day serves as a fitting tribute to his remarkable legacy.
Explaining the reason behind choosing PK Banerjee’s birthday, AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said, “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 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 whenever with the junior National teams.”
Grassroots Day forms to keep in line with the Strategic Roadmap ‘Vision 2047’. It seeks to increase grassroots participation in the country. It involves the development of young players at the grassroots level. This will provide them opportunities to learn and grow in a supportive and nurturing environment. By dedicating a specific day to grassroots football, the AIFF aims to engage 35 million children in football by 2026 and up to 100 million by 2047. The Federation has announced the Blue Cubs programme. This will collaborate with NGOs, schools, clubs, academies as well as various other stakeholders to expand the grassroots ecosystem.
The decision to choose PK Banerjee’s birthday as AIFF Grassroots Day holds special significance. PK Banerjee himself had a humble beginning in football, hailing from a small village in West Bengal. He is widely regarded as one of India’s greatest footballers. PK was India’s highest goalscorer with four goals en route to Gold Medal in 1962 Asian Games. In a glittering international career, Banerjee played two Olympics (1956, 1960) and three Asian Games (1958, 1962, 1966). He was the first footballer to receive the prestigious Arjuna Award in the year of its inception, 1961. He also received Padma Shri in 1990.