Kolkata, Feb 20 (IANS) A pall of gloom descended on the football fraternity here on Monday as Kolkata paid homage to famed former India and Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Shibaji Banerjee who died on Sunday night.
A Bagan legend who represented the club for 11 years winning 34 trophies and playing against Brazilian legend Pele when New York Cosmos toured India in 1977, Banerjee’s body was taken to the office of Bengali publication Ganashakti in the morning, followed by stoppages at the Mohun Bagan club ground and then at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
Banerjee, for the record, was also a competent club level cricketer having scored runs in the CAB first division league. He was a Port Trust representative at CAB meetings.
One of the country’s finest exponents between the sticks, Banerjee was a senior officer in charge of recruitment at Port Trust.
After retiring, he served in various committees of Mohun Bagan club. He was at the stands on Saturday watching Mohun Bagan’s 3-1 win over DSK Shivajians in an I-League tie.
Mohun Bagan said a condolence meeting will be held on March 3.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF), the game’s parent body in the country, also condoled the demise.
“It is sad to hear that we lost Shibaji Banerjee untimely due to a sudden heart attack. He was one of the greatest goalkeepers, especially during spot-kicks,” AIFF President Praful Patel said in a statement.
Former and present stars of Mohun Bagan crowded the club tent as the cortege reached there in the afternoon. Some of Banerjee’s teammates were in tears.
Among those present were Chuni Goswami, Prasun Banerjee, Subrata Bhattarcharya, Sisir Ghosh, Prasanta Banerjee, Gautam Sarkar, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Monoranjan Bhattacharya, Aloke Mukherjee, Atanu Bhattacharya, Bhaskar Ganguly, Dibyendu Barua and Satyajit Chatterjee.
Current squad members including star Haitian Sony Norde, Jeje Lalpekhlua, and Pronoy Halder were also in attendance.
Banerjee’s photograph diving at Pele’s feet to snatch the ball remains etched in the hearts of football lovers.
Bhaskar Ganguly, another stalwart India goalkeeper and Banerjee’s contemporary, said: “East Bengal and Mohun Bagan met several times. I have won many a times against him in matches. When I conceded four goals in a game, it was he who came first and encouraged me to make a comeback.”
Ganguly was talking about th 1975 IFA Shield final tie where he was replaced by Prasanta Mitra after leaking four goals.
Mohun Bagan legend Chuni Goswami termed Banerjee’s demise as “tragic”.