In the early hours on Monday, the nation lost of one of its greatest and most influential football administrators- PP Lakshmanan. He will be remembered as one of the pioneers of making football a professional sport in India and helping the system run in a manner that would help the sport develop in the country.
The former FIFA Appeals Committee member who was also at one point chairman of the Kannur Municipality passed away at age 83 after suffering from prolonged illnesses. He passed away at a private Hospital in Kannur.
Lakshmanan, was instrumental in grooming the sport of football in a country where cricket is almost religion. He played an integral part in forming the National League for clubs in India, which is now known as the I-League.
He was involved in the development of football within the country for nearly five decades starting in 1970s as president of the Kannur District Football Association, following which he rose to the position of the President of the Kerala Football Association.
A story by Manorama points out how Lakshmanan, an avid football player in his youth had to forfeit his dream of playing professionally due to his height, but ensured that he contributed his best to the sport he loved.
In 1977, when the first edition of the All India Football Federation Championship tournament was held in Ernakulam, Lakshmanan was at the helm of affairs.
K Bodhanandan, who was secretary of the Kerala Football Association remembered PP Lakshmanan and his contribution to the sport within the country. He said “He was a very dynamic person. I was fortunate to work as a secretary while he was president of the Kerala Football Association. When Lakshmanan took over the presidency of the association, at the time he was holding a good post in the All India Football Federation too. He got the opportunity to travel to many countries that played football. He was also associated with FIFA. With that experience and contacts in countries like Korea and Indonesia, he understood the way to conduct football in a professional manner.”
In 1980, he was named treasurer of the All India Football Federation (AIFF). During his tenure as secretary of the AIFF, Lakshmanan and team introduced the age limit of 23 years for the Santhosh Trophy. His reason being that it would help in nurturing talent required for the National team to succeed in tournaments such as the Olympics.
After losing the AIFF election in 1996, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who took over as president of the association, appointed Lakshmanan as senior vice-president. He was later elected AIFF executive president in 2000.
He is also the first Indian to be named in the FIFA appeals committee.
Current AIFF president Praful Patel said it was a massive loss for Indian Football whilst condoling his demise. “It is very sad to hear that Mr. Lakshmanan is no more. His contribution to Indian football can never be forgotten. He was a visionary and had laid the path for the development of Indian Football over the years. May his soul rest in peace,”
DCC president Satheeshan Pacheni also paid homage to the late Lakshmanan. “He made a mark in every field he was actively involved in, be it football, politics or socio-cultural activities,” said Pacheni in his condolence message.