Kolkata: Former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia considers himself fortunate to have played under the tutelage of P K Banerjee and recalled how the iconic footballer-turned-coach had a huge role to play in one of his most memorable performances.
Bhutia endured racist taunts from Mohun Bagan coach Amal Dutta, ahead of the derby match, but Banerjee "soaked up all the pressure and ensured that the boys remain unaffected." Banerjee died after prolonged illness at a hospital here.
Bhutia struck a famous hat-trick to script an epic 4-1 win for East Bengal in the 1997 Federation Cup semifinals in front of a record turn out of 1 lakh 20 thousand which remains the stuff of footballing folklore.
"There was a lot of hype surrounding the match and Amal da made some unwanted statements but Pradip da did not let the pressure come into his players," Bhutia recalled while talking to PTI.
"Amal da was clearly under pressure and made some unnecessary statements. But we remained unaffected and it showed in our win," he said.
"Pradip da was such a cool and composed man and it reflected in the match. That's how he could get the best out of the players. It was definitely one of the biggest matches of my life," the former India striker added of Banerjee, who won 54 trophies as coach of club and country, the most for an Indian.
Banerjee had earlier coached East Bengal to a historic five back-to-back Calcutta Football League titles from 1971-75.