Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cyprian Fernandes: Ray Batchelor and the Goans Part I

Ray Batchelor
The Sultan of sport (Part I)
"Defeat is not declared when you fall down. Defeat is declared when you refuse to get up".

Was training on the sweet sands of Mombasa beaches the secret of their success?

Raymond Harold Walter Batchelor, ( 24-06-1924 – 5-02-2006) better known as simply Ray, is known the world over as the coach who partnered the British Goan legend Seraphino Antao to the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games sprint double for Kenya one year before independence from Great Britain. Antao was born in Chandor, Goa, and brought to Mombasa by his parents. In 1954, Antao who was a promising soccer player broke an ankle and thought he would never play again. A friend took him to an athletics meeting in Mombasa. Later he met Ray and the rest, as they say, is history.
BREAK OUT Who is Ray Batchelor?
Ray was born in 1924 in East London’s Canning Town. For centuries Canning Town has remained one of the most deprived areas in the UK, with long-time residents suffering poor health, low education and poverty. Canning Town appears to come directly out of a Charles Dickens novel, especially depicting the dark, grey, dimly lit pathos of the poorest London town of his era.  It is not surprise than that with dedication and extreme hard work, young Ray set about changing his life. At the age of 17 he volunteered to serve in the World II. He was chosen to join No. 6 and later No. 12 Commandos. His group were among the first to parachute under night cover in German occupied France to blow bridges and prepare strategic areas for D-Day. He was said to be “brave” and never one who did things “by half measures”
After being Africanised Kenya, he went to Malawi in 1967 as Director of Sport and Coaching for five years. He built up an incredible football side which had many successes against other powerhouses like Ghana, Zambia, Uganda and other African countries. He was also heavily involved in Malawi athletics and boxing and prepared teams for both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
Later he moved Zimbabwe where he successfully coached Mangula to several soccer trophies and was awarded “Rhodesian Football Coach of the Year.”
In 1982 he moved to Witwatersrand University in South Africa until he retired at the age of 70. He enjoyed a lot of success with the Wit’s Club. As usual he was highly successful in various aspects of sports life at the University and much admired. Again, as always, his enthusiasm was infectious.
Later he moved Cape Town and worked at the famous Newlands Cricket Club in administration.
His daughter Claire says: “Sport was his life. He was one of a kind! He was one of the kindest, hardest-working and loving fathers.”
“We miss him tremendously and will always be so grateful for our wonderful, special father. As always, we wish we could turn the clock backwards.”

The Ray Batchelor coached Remington Cup winners, Mombasa, sadly I have no names.

In Kenya, Ray held hundreds of jobs including: Community Sports and Welfare Officer, Provincial Sports Officer, Athletics and National Football coach (1960-66) National Schools soccer coach (1962-67), PE teacher and games tutor in St Thomas Aquinas Nairobi, Alliance Boys’ High School, Njoro Agricultural College. He also did a lot of work with the Kenya squads in hockey, athletics and boxing especially for the Commonwealth and Empire Games and the Olympics. He also held high positions in the various national bodies of sport. He was the founder of the National Soccer League, Secretary of the Coast Sports and Boxing associations, secretary or chairman of various other sports association throughout the country. His CV would fill a mini-book. He qualified as a Football Association coach at the famed Loughborough College in the British Midlands.
As he did in Kenya, Ray played a huge role in the emergent sporting life of Malawi.

Ray Batchelor player-coach with his Kenya National League winning Nakuru All-Stars team: Back row: D. Stephens, T. Johnstone, O. Matenderchase, D. Masinde, M. Falvey, N. Dat. Zachari, B. Barasa, W. Wonyoni, Batchelor. Front row: C. Alviha, D. Muraya, J. Reyo, Ndegwa. Photo courtesy of Abas A. Said.

The tall rugged Ray was in the very first place a sports crazy guy. He loved to play soccer, cricket, run around the track and was dedicated to his own physical education (muscle building and care of the body’s running machine and its myriad parts). “While Cricket does not appear very much in my CV, I have enjoyed the game thoroughly as player and coach. I played ground and second XI with Essex County who sent me to the Alf Gover Coaching School in London. In Kenya I played provincial cricket and gain caps against Pakistan, India, Commonwealth Cavaliers, MCC and other teams.  I coached quite a bit until a knee injury forced me to hang up the bat.”
He coached and played for the mighty Liverpool soccer team in Mombasa. Here was a white man playing and coaching young black guys, Arabs, Swahilis (a mixture of African and Arab by breeding) and Goans, Portuguese by colony and Indian by the nature of the sub-continent, at a time when the Kenyan colony was slowly loosening the grip on its version of apartheid: “separate development”. The Ray I knew could not have given stuff about the colour of one’s skin; he was more concerned that if you were there to train, then your commitment had to be total.

Liverpool’s Albert Castanha with Effie Antao and Joe Fernandes being introduced to Kenya Governor Sir Patrick Rennison by Liverpool coach Ray Batchelor.

Ray coached Liverpool to championship wins of the Kenya Football Association cup, several times if I remember correctly. Their local derby encounters with the local Feisal Club are now only to be found in the scraps of paper a fast vanishing tribe of football players and fans have clung on bits of newsprint type that belongs in the realms of immortality. Hence, Ray was the Sultan of Coast sport. Anybody who could coach a team to a soccer championship win had to be a king or a sultan and Ray was toasted by the whole of the Coast’s soccer loving fans and players alike. After he had moved on from the Coast, he would go on to coach the Kenya national soccer side for several years.
Ray had started his soccer career while growing in England. He was a junior in the great West Ham United before playing in the English Southern League. West Ham have been a part of the English Premier League, on and off for many decades.

Ray fell face-first into some very heavy soccer storms with the Kenya national team. One was not of his making but the negative stuck. I was there in 1965 at Jamhuri Park Showground (where the annual monster Royal Show, later the Agricultural Show was held) where Kenya were playing the Ghana All Stars as the Republic Day drawcard attended by the President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, and a vast array of local and international dignitaries. At half time the score was 6-1. Kenyatta walked out and never went to another football match in his life. The final score was 13-2. To be fair to Ray he had taken over the role of coach just four before the start of the match. Peter Oronge who had been in charge had a mental melt down and abandoned the team.  I was completely shell-shocked and Editor Brian Marsden had to prise the report out of me.

The Kenya team was: Joseph Were, Tom Sabuni, Jonathan Niva, Anthony Mukabwa, Moses Wabwai, Joseph Okeyo, John Rabuongi, Nicodemus Arudhi, William Chege Ouma, James Asibwa and Moses Ambani.

Kenyan writer Roy Gachuhi wrote of that day.  “Ray Batchelor was a determined man. He believed in all things being possible. He was one of those White people who believed in the African cause and had thrown his lot with black Kenyans full-bloodedly. He always wore a cheerful smile – but it was conspicuous by its absence today. He was red in the face. And yet, there was still Friendly Game Two against the Black Stars in a harrowing two days to come.”

Ray Batchelor told me: “Many people told me I was mad to take charge of the team at such short notice. Maybe I am mad but I am a coach and when Kenya needs me, I will do my best. But I am not a magician, nor can I perform miracles.”

For a long time he had a lot of difficulty in coming to terms with the 13-2 thrashing. He knew there was another defeat coming his way. He was having nightmares in daylight.
To some degree, I was influenced by that by and my own reckoning I could not see anything to shout about on the horizon. Kenya was thrashed, comprehensively beaten, annihilated …if there is ever a sure bet, this was to put your house. I wrote that day: “Kenya face the almost frightening prospect of taking on the Black Stars again at Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park Stadium. Another crushing defeat is the only reasonable forecast after the events of Saturday.”  

According to Batchelor, “The Black Stars gave us an abject lesson in hard, accurate shooting. This is a lesson our forwards must learn before tomorrow evening.”

When I spoke to him next, he said he had had that Eureka moment. He had figured it out. There was one answer to the puzzle: “Stop that rampaging, scheming, centre forward Acheampong. He is the king linchpin, the brains of the attack. You stop him and you will stop the All Stars,” he talks out aloud. He was like a man possessed. He walks around almost the whole day, saying to himself: “Stop Achpong,” and within a few hours the name had be reduced to “Apong”. Who? That big centre forward, stop him.”
He wanted Kenya to take control of the midfield. If they did that they would win control of the match and stop the All Stars.
 “We have decided to change our tactics,” he announced to the people of Kenya and to the Black Stars. I intend to play two men as deep centres in an attempt to snuff out the Black Stars’ midfield menace. Ahmed Breik was told to do this on Saturday, but it didn’t come off.”

In the end, Batchelor made a total overhaul of the squad that had absorbed the 13 goals. Whether it was as a result of this, or his anti-Acheampong tactics, or Gyamfi’s ‘easy-boys-easy’ approach, we shall never get to know. But the second result was 3-3.

To Kenya, it was a miracle. But this miracle, if it indeed was, was not big enough to wipe out the 13-2 score-line from the record books.

In 1961, when Ray first became national coach, it was all stormy weather ahead finishing at a tournament in Zanzibar he was forced out after a player revolt. He never let any such things keep him down for too long. In 1964, he player-coached the Nakuru All-Stars to the National Soccer League title.

Since 1957, Ray also had a huge input into the Kenyan boxing scene. Before his departure in 1967, he was told in an official letter “we are indeed most grateful for all your willing assistance and co-operation not only in your numerous tournaments we have staged, but for your daily help in the training of our up and coming boxers”.

Christine, Mum, Claire, Ray … the Batchelor family at the tennis at Nairobi Club
·         Special thanks to Claire (Batchelor) Leather for all the help with research and photos.

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  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...