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India’s star Olympic football captain Samar ‘Badru’ Banerjee dead

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Former India football team captain Samar ‘Badru’ Banerjee, who led the country to a historic fourth-place finish in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, died in the early hours of Saturday after a prolonged illness.

He was 92. Banerjee is survived by his daughter-in-law.

Fondly known as ‘Badru Da’, he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, Azotemia and high-blood pressure-related ailments, and was admitted at the MR Bangur Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 on July 27.

“As his health deteriorated he was shifted to the state-run SSKM Hospital under the supervision of state sports minister Arup Biswas. He breathed his last around 2.10am,” Mohun Bagan secretary Debasish Dutta told PTI.

Loss for the ‘maidan’

“He was our beloved ‘Badru Da’ and we had bestowed him with the Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2009. It’s another big loss for the Maidan,” he added in his condolence message.

His body was brought to the club as the members and fans paid their last respects.

The Indian football teams have participated in three Olympics so far and to date, the performance by the Banerjee-led 1956 side remains the best, when they finished fourth after losing to Bulgaria 0-3 in the bronze medal playoff, in what was known as the ‘golden era’ of football in the country.

Having got a walkover in the first round, the Syed Abdul Rahim-coached side that also had the likes of PK Banerjee, Neville D’Souza and J ‘Kittu’ Krishnaswamy, defeated Australia 4-2. D’Souza struck a hat-trick in their glorious win.

Besides guiding Mohun Bagan to several trophies including their first ever Durand Cup (1953), Rovers Cup (1955), Banerjee has also won the Santosh Trophy twice as a player (1953, 1955) and once as coach (1962). He also served India as selector.

Tracing his roots

At a time when there was little incentive for a sportsperson, an 18-year-old Banerjee chose to become a footballer and went on to represent Bally Protiva, a third division club in the Calcutta Football League.

He was roped in by Bengal Nagpur Railway, the nurturing ground for the state football then, before going on to make a mark at Mohun Bagan during an excellent eight-year stint.

He then guided the club to their first ever Durand Cup next season, with his key strikes in the semi-final and final.

Banerjee again hogged the Maidan limelight in 1954 when they secured another first, a double with the CFL and IFA Shield titles, as he went on to cement his place in the Indian side under coach Rahim.

In 1958, he was made Mohun Bagan captain which ironically coincided with the club’s downward spiral, having finished runners-up in the CFL, Shield and the Rovers Cup.

Published on

August 20, 2022



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