The Indian football fraternity, on Monday, mourned the death of former AIFF President Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who served in the position for nearly two decades.
The 72-year-old, also an eminent Congress leader, passed away today after being in coma since 2008, when he had suffered a stroke.
"His contribution to Indian football can never be forgotten. Under him, the National Football League started in 1996 (which was rechristened I-League in 2007) and everything today is moving ahead based on the foundation he laid," All India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-President Subrata Dutta told PTI.
Dasmunsi first became the AIFF President in 1989, succeeding K Ziauddin, and held the position for 19 years.
Hospitalised after the stroke, Dasmunsi was succeeded by Praful Patel, who holds the position till date.
Dasmunsi earned a rare distinction during his tenure when in 2006, FIFA named him the match commissioner for a group stage game between Australia and Croatia in the 2006 World Cup.
Dasmunsi was also a member of the Asian Football Confederation's Executive Committee.
"He initiated the professionalism in Indian football," said Dutta.
Former Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia also paid tribute to the former AIFF chief.
"Very, very sad to hear that. His contribution to AIFF has been massive. His contribution has really taken Indian football forward," he said.
"He was very passionate about football. He had football in his blood. He went out of his way in being supportive when I was playing for East Bengal. His passion and love for the game was easily seen by everyone," he added.
Another of Indian football's biggest stars, I M Vijayan, also recalled the contribution made by Dasmunsi in developing Indian football.
"It is a big loss for Indian football. He was the man who started the National Football League as a sort of pan-India league. It is his legacy. He brought private channels to telecast matches. These are his two most important contributions," he said.
IMAGE: FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter (left) walks with Indian Football Association President Priyaranjan Dasmunsi during a visit to Mohun Bagan Football Club in Kolkata on April 16. 2007
Photograph: DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images/File