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Albert Fernando a legendary coach by Elmo RODRIGOPULLE
Albert Fernando a legendary coach

The Second Albert Fernando Memorial soccer tournament conducted by the Old Bens Veterans Soccer Wing will be dribbled on Saturday at 4.30 p.m. at the College ground at Bloemendhal Road.

Albert Fernando

It is great that his former pupils who he made brilliant players from mediocre ones are continuing to honour the maestro who during his time as coach did wonders for the game at the college and at national level.

Fernando’s achievements as player, captain and coach are legion. He led the college in the fifties, played for Ratnam Sports Club if my memory serves me right and then took to coaching.

To start with his school career, it is said that when he was captain, he had turned up two minutes late for practice and the prefect of Games that time that stickler for punctuality and discipline Bro. Ladislaus had dropped him from the team.

Fernando was one of the finest forwards (now strikers) at that time. But that did not matter to Bro. Ladislaus. To him punctuality and discipline came first and nothing else.

Fernando took to coaching if I remember right in the early fifties. Early is his coaching career he made champions of many Benedictine teams, that his classmate Vartharaja who was then the Ambassador in Brazil, organised a coaching stint for him in the home of world beaters Brazil.

That was the first time that a local had the good fortune of being trained in the land of the legendary Pele. Fernando trained and learnt the rudiments of the game and coaching from Tele Santana, Pele, Garincha, Alberto Carles and many other stars.

And when he returned he answered the call of his alma mater and took on the role of coach once again and what he did for many years turning out champions with regularity is still vivid in my mind and all the players of that time that made the college the envy of other schools.

In latter years Fernando who was my class teacher and I became close friends and he used to regale me and the others around with some rib tickling anecdotes of his adventures in Brazil.

When I became the Sports Editor of the “Times of Ceylon”, I requested Fernando to cover the World Cup that was played in England.

Fernando is to stay awake all night listening to the commentaries and when I called at his home he would present me with a copy written, giving every incident, and the goals scored as he was at the scene of action. Such was his versatility.

During Fernando’s reign, was also the time when other sports such as hockey and basketball also ruled the roost in the school and at national level. Coaches of those sports who made the school and the OBSC champions were Brian Assey and Ram Suntheralingam.

It would be wonderful if hockey players and cagers of that era organise tournaments or matches in their honour like the veteran soccerites are doing.

Albert Fernando on his return from Brazil turned out some wonderful dribblers which was the hallmark of the world champions Brazil of that time. There were plenty of Peles, Garinchas and Albertos in that time in Denzil Walles, Rex Sebastian, Errol Anthony, Tissa Kodituwakku, Suriyakumar Seneviratne and Melvin Dabare.

By mentioning these names I am sure to earn the wrath of those left out. But that is how it goes. I beg to be excused.

Before the names mentioned above there were the Nicholas brothers. Sampooran and Nithi. They were magicians with the ball at their feet and they used to show magic by dribbling past the defenders even at times dribbling the goalkeeper to score like Denzil Walles used to do.

It would be admirable if soccerites of the past, hockey players and basketballers could get together and honour their coaches who made them the brilliant players that they were by electing monuments in their honour.

Cosmas Mahagama I am sure would ungrudgingly make the first contribution for basketball, Thilak Pieris for football and Dennis Rosayro for hockey.

The teams for today’s game will be captained by Old Bens Greens Rohan Jayawardena and Old Bens whites by Neville Perera. Their deputies will be Tony Anandappa and Vijitha Perera.

So be there for an evening when football of the past would be put on display and fellowship at the club house in this season of good cheer.

Once St. Benedict’s was playing a soccer match against a Negombo School. In those days Patrick Perera, Kenneth Dabrera, Cosmas Perera and Edward Sumanasekera and the writer would not miss a inter-school soccer where ever it was played.

In this game the players were being assaulted by the opponents with the referee who also hailed from the area not doing anything to stall the assault.

At the end of the game Fernando sensing a free-for-all shouted to the Bens supporters saying thus: ‘Get back. No fights boys. If they give us a fight I’ll give them a war.’ And knowing Fernando who hailed from Kochchikade this was not impossible.

When Tilak Pieries a former Benedictine and Combined schools captain phoned me to break the sad news about Fernando’s death, I could not believe it, because it was April Fool’s day. I asked Tilak - Are you pulling my leg? He said: ‘No Elmo, Albert passed away this morning in Madras.

I could not believe it because it was the end of a legend and an era.

That St. Benedict’s still remains a private school, credit must also go to Fernando for it was he, among many others who got us to squat at the gates of SBC and prevent the take over of our honoured and revered school.

Fernando’s famous song was that Jamaican Johnny perennial - Last train to San Fernando which perennial ran thus - Last train to San Fernando, if you miss this one, you’ll never get another one - and Fernando was that train and there will never be another one.
 Posted by webmaster on December 10 2008 00:58:52 · 1 Comments · 15966 Reads Print
Ranjan Rosairo on January 06 2009 00:23:17
I really enjoyed reading this article by Elmo Rodrigopulle. I used to live in the same street as he and his nephew Maurice was my classmate.

This article also brought back fond memories of my former teacher Albert Fernando. We were so terrified when he walked into the classroom to teach us Arithmetic. And whenever anyone got his Arithmetic wrong he was treated with a thorough lambazzing (word used by Albert Fernando for canning).
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