Friday, January 15, 2021

Basher Hassan, one of the best, always!

 

Basharat  (Basher) Hassan



As a kid growing up in Eastleigh and its environs in Nairobi, Kenya we had our own sports heroes but it was no big deal, they were all just one of us. We loved their skills, we loved their heroics on the fields of hockey, cricket, football and in the halls of indoor sports. We were all in the same boat but some of our sports heroes stood out more than others. Basharat Hassan was born to be a cricket superstar. He is to this day one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. He has been blessed with one of the best, permanent smiles you will find. To this day he has remained the boyhood chum you will never forget. One of my favourite sports stars, the kid from the Sir Ali Muslim Sports Club. He was the most loved and respected sportsman in East Africa.

Attacking middle-order batsman, occasional bowler, excellent cover point fielder, competent wicketkeeper, Commercial Manager, Committee member, Vice-President, Club President and all-round cult hero, ‘Basher’ Hassan has fulfilled many roles for his adopted county since his arrival in England in 1966.

Sheikh Basharat Hassan was born on 24 March 1944 in Nairobi, Kenya.  Having shown his potential in club cricket he made his First-Class debut for an East African Invitation XI against the touring MCC in November 1963.  Three years later he moved to England and joined Notts, although – as Basher openly admits – he mistook the Trent Bridge Inn for the entrance to the cricket ground on his first day with his new employers!

Basher made his First-Class debut for Notts at Oxford University in May 1966 when he played as a wicketkeeper but spent the rest of that season in the 2nd XI while serving his residential qualification.  The following season he played in 17 First-Class matches, hitting 579 runs and averaging 27.57, with a highest score of 107* against Glamorgan, struck in 98 minutes.

When Notts signed Gary Sobers as the overseas player for the 1968 season Basher was restricted to one First-Class match against the touring Australians.  However, he appeared regularly for the county’s 2nd XI and for the International Cavaliers – and it was in the Cavaliers’ televised matches that Basher became well-known for his unorthodox crouching stance at the wicket.

In 1969 Basher soon established himself as a key member of the county’s first team squad and in 1970 he reached 1,000 runs in a season for the first time while averaging 32.44 and receiving his county cap.  In 1972 he headed the Notts batting averages and in 1977 struck his highest First-Class score of 182*, against Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge.  In the previous match against Kent, he had been injured in the first innings, but with Notts being asked to follow on Basher scored a remarkable four-hour 106 with the aid of a runner – although his heroics were not enough to prevent an eight-wicket defeat.

During a 20-year First-Class career in England Basher totalled 14,355 runs and scored more than 1,000 in five seasons; he also played a vital role in the 1981 Championship-winning side when he finished third in Notts’ batting averages.

As a useful wicketkeeper, Basher’s versatility also made him a key player in limited-overs cricket.  He was the first Notts batsman to reach 5,000 runs in the Sunday League and he ended his career with 6,806 List-A runs and a highest score of 120* against Warwickshire in 1981.  That innings was just one of four hundreds against the same county within six years, three being Basher’s career-best scores at the time.

Basher’s reputation as a fine fielder was well-deserved and his 306 catches in First-Class matches were the highest number by a Notts fielder since 1945.  The 1971 edition of Wisden praised "his brilliance in the covers [which] stamped him as one of the outstanding men in this position in the country", adding that his team-mates were "fired by the example of the enthusiastic Hassan".

Basher retired from playing at the end of the 1985 season, during which he made an appearance as twelfth man for England in an Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.  His attentions then turned to umpiring and between 1987 and 1991 he stood in 65 First-Class and 58 List-A matches.

Basher was also well-known across the Midlands as an enthusiastic and powerful hockey player, and he remains a popular and well-known figure across the world of cricket.  He has supported the charity Cerebral Palsy Sport for over seventeen years, during which time he has raised more than £10,000, become one of their Patrons and been the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Basher was also Honorary President of the Nottinghamshire Premier League and, having served on the Nottinghamshire CCC General Committee from 2005 to 2017, he was elected as the Club’s President in February 2020, cementing a 50-year association with the Club.

May 2020, Notts County Cricket Club

Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 444

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Your prayers for one of my best mates

 

I share this because I have always been impressed by my mate's sheer, quiet courage in the face of adversity.



Dear Skip,

 

Your email is timely insomuch as I wrote to the “kids” (adults, actually) yesterday giving them an update on my multiple myeloma, the blood cancer that was first diagnosed in mid-2017. Therefore, I can tell you what I told them – which was basically just informing them where I am after yesterday’s meeting with my haematologist.

 

The original diagnosis led to a bone marrow transplant in early 2018. It was successful but the myeloma came back within a year – unusual because the transplant should see a person right for a good few years. No worries, says my haematologist, the very capable Specialists at the nearby hospital. “We’ll put you on oral chemo tablets (Lenalidomide, which are derived from the thalidomide which caused all those birth defects 50 years back)” which is where I have been since 2018. They worked well and got me back into remission within six months – again an incredibly speedy outcome. No real problem side effects from the chemo so I was happy to take them. (The pills, incidentally, cost around $6600 a box, or $300+ a pill!) but only $6.60 from the hospital pharmacy thanks to the PBS.

 

Now, the latest blood results indicate that the myeloma, which was in recession for many, many months, has come back. The para-proteins, which are an indication of cancer, started rising before Christmas from two to three to five and, this week, the reading was 10. I do not think it was related, but the chemo pills that I was taking were reduced from 15mg to 10 about six months back and I was allowed to take only three steroids (dexamethasone) instead of five to try and cut the redness in my face which would hit me for two days each week after taking them.

 

Whether that was coincidental or not, does not matter as all these drugs eventually lose their effectiveness.

 

So, my specialists are looking at the options. There is a new generation to the Lenalidomide mentioned above but it can cause heart problems – not that I have a bad heart.

 

But the oncologist is looking to get me, instead, on the trial of Darzalex which has just been put on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme meaning that it can be bought by me for as little as $6.60 when it would normally cost those with myeloma as much as $160,000 a year!

 

As I am about to go on the third treatment (bone marrow transplant, then chemo and now ??) I am not really eligible for the trial conducted at the hospital on this drug (available mainly for those on second-stage treatment), but I am confident that my oncologist can get me accepted for a trial period.

 

So, there is bad and good news – the latter being a very modern treatment, probably better than what I am on. I do not feel bad and only the blood results indicate any change. The Oncologist should know by the end of the week if I can take the new drug. Myeloma, you will read, is treatable but not curable, but new and more effective treatments are being devised monthly.

 

So there, my old workmate, is the medical situation.

 

I am not writing much at the moment as I have just done a complicated family in a 100-page photo book (an example page is attached) and I must now work for a book to commemorate my daughter’s 50th birthday next month (not to mention our 55th wedding anniversary – where did the time go!!?)

 

Once that is done, I might try and work a few memories. I found some old cuttings which might help – even a Nation spread of journos vs pollies football game which I will send if I can find again!

 

Our son hopes to get out of the Middle East this month but these bloody state premiers are being messed around by the federal lot is not helping Aussies return. Our son has a dog and, guess what, there is only one quarantine station in Australia, in the dysfunctional state of Victoria. You would think they would have established a pop-up quarantine facility elsewhere by now. Too hard for the pollies. Which does not give me much faith in their vaccine choice.

 

Hope we can get away in our caravan by the end of February. We do feel safe in this isolated state, so different from my sister in the UK where, as far as I can read, things are pretty grim. Throw in the US debacle of Trump etc and it is not a good start to 2021.

 

Okay, that is much more than I intended to write, and a phone call would have been the wiser quicker option. Trust all is well with you. Gerry L is getting longer in the tooth but I am assuming that he is hanging in there. Like you, I am still rather shocked that Azhar checked out when he did.

 

XYZ


Dear XYZ

I will pray that you come through this. You have been through so much and it would seem

you have taken it in your stride, in your own unflappable way. 

 

For a little while today, Rufy seemed to be leaning over my shoulder as I was reading

your email. Shivers ran through my veins, remembering what we went through with her.

 

I know you will be away on a holiday soon, somewhere quiet. I hope you will have

a beer or a glass of red.

 

If your ears are burning, it will be just me sending you good vibes.

 

With my prayers,

 

Skip

 

Skip, you’ll remember back in mid-2017, the registrar, who happened to be Indian, suggested I go home and sort out my financial affairs when tests showed I had additional problems to myeloma. I did not take him too seriously.

I should have been a paraplegic at 18, a write off in cars since then – and the fall off a cliff in Durban was just testing me! So, I did not worry then, nor do I worry now. I have a good haematologist and a loving family. Thanks for your good thoughts.

All the best

 

XYZ

 

 

 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Justice in Kenya? Splitsplutsplat, Sad as always

 NCrossJanuary2021

A Personal View by GERRY LOUGHRAN

What happened when Thomas invited his pal

over for a spot of praying and hymn-singing

I don’t know why I thought of Thomas except this is January and it was January when the office called to tell me that Thomas had been arrested on a charge of drunkenness.

Impossible, I said. Thomas worked for me as a house servant; he was a fundamentalist Christian and would sooner drink acid than alcohol.

Well, they said, he is due to appear in court in Kibera in a few hours, so you better hot-foot it over there.

Kibera, then and now, was one of the biggest slums in Africa, no place for somebody wearing shoes and a suit, so I travelled by taxi rather than risk the loss of my car’s wheels, or indeed my car, if I parked there.

Joseph spotted me through the high wire fence around the courtroom-cum-police station. It was the previous night, he said. He had invited a friend over for a spot of praying and hymn-singing, then accompanied him to the bus stop. An officer who had been watching from a police car accused them of being drunk and demanded a “fine.”

Neither Joseph nor his friend had money for the bribe, so they were hauled to court, knowing they would be fined or imprisoned if they failed to pay.

Inside the courtroom, I saw the bespectacled magistrate bent over a ledger, pen in hand, as some ten or eleven, mostly rag-tag, men, including Thomas and his pal, filed in and stood in line with bowed heads. All pleaded guilty to drunkenness.

I forget what, if any, evidence, was adduced, but at the conclusion of this farce, identical fines were handed down, with jail terms in lieu. At no point in the proceedings did the bored magistrate direct a single look at the men he condemned.

A prison van was parked in the courtroom enclosure. I handed money through the fence for Thomas and his friend, who then walked free. Some relatives also paid fines, but about half a dozen men, perhaps guilty, quite possibly innocent, remained, waiting for the prison van doors to open.

The scene that day filled me with anger… the sheer unfairness of the affair, the suspicion that it was replicated day after day, its arbitrary nature – if Thomas and his friend had sung another hymn perhaps nothing would have happened to them.

I seethed at the corrupt cops, the callous magistrate, the submissiveness of the accused, the evil of the system. Plus, I have to say, the apparent absence of God.

Of course, there are boundless examples of innocent people suffering a lot worse than Thomas and his friend: every day in cancer hospitals and under the wheels of vehicles; people tortured for belonging to the wrong party, group or religion, or killed for being the wrong colour.

And so to the age-old question: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? The accepted answer is that what happens here on earth is down to us because God has given us free will.

See Ecclesiasticus 15: 14-17: “He himself made man in the beginning and then left him free to make his own decisions. If you wish, you can keep the commandments; to behave faithfully is within your power. He has set fire and water before you, put out your hand to whatever you prefer. Man has life and death before him, whichever a man likes better will be given to him.”

Most people would say that’s fine, if we do evil we should suffer the consequences. But when it’s haphazard, not a consequence of anyone’s act, what then? Why does God not intervene?

I suppose that if we wanted such a world of total safety in which there was no pain, airplanes and cars would never crash or if they did, their passengers would all be fine; there would be no need of hospitals because no-one would fall sick; the insurance industry would collapse and lord knows where we would all live because with nobody dying, the population would explode.

Silly, isn’t it! I am no theologian or social scientist but looking back on that time in Kenya, I sometimes wonder about a wider picture, the policemen, for instance. As public servants, they were likely as poor as many of the people they arrested and doubtless made up their pathetic wages by the occasional shakedown.

And the magistrate? That was an awful job for a man of education, handling petty offences in a slum courtroom day after day. Was he not bright enough for promotion? Had he made a mistake and been shunted sideways?

At least there was some logic here. A world where nothing goes wrong? I dunno. Not for me.

Newcastle-born Gerry Loughran is a retired foreign correspondent. You can contact him on Gerryo69@hotmail.com

The views in this column do not necessarily represent those of Northern Cross or of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.


Gerry Loughran is an outstanding journalist who has been associated if The Nation (off and on) for nigh on 60 years and still writes a weekly column. I will always count him among my special friends. Cyprian

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sylvester Fernandes, hockey Olympian

 





Silu Fernandes,

this sporting life …

 

 

Three-time Kenya Hockey Olympian, Silvester (Silu) Fernandes, the second of five brothers was born November 26, 1936, in Nairobi where he attended the Goan mecca of sportsmen and sportswomen ... the Dr Ribeiro Goan School.

 Growing up at the Railway Quarters in the Desai Road area of Nairobi, played hockey at a young age with neighbouring young lads.... including fellow Olympians Alu Mendonca, Hillary and Leo Fernandes, Saude George, Reynold D'Souza, Edgar and Egbert Fernandes ... on a tiny patch of murram (hard, red earth) near to where they lived and would often hang around the nearby RGI hockey pitch hoping, to get a game with the senior players.

 "Although I played a lot of hockey, cricket was my first love and much to the disappointment of my dear Mum who wanted very much for me to become a school teacher, I was tempted by the offer of a job to play cricket for the Standard Bank of South Africa in the Commercial League (very popular at the time) fortunately my younger brother Steve came to the rescue by becoming a teacher at a local school and later a Head Master, both in Nairobi and later in the UK.

As a cricketer I was privileged to play with the likes of Blaise D'Cunha Maurice Gracious and John Lobo all Kenya Representative players, and also had the very unique distinction of having my own team 'Silu's Eleven' made up by players of the calibre of Zulfikar Ali, Charanjive Sharma, V S Lamba and Ramesh Bhalla with annual fixtures against most of the leading clubs in Kenya.

My Darling Ivy, daughter Sandra and I were very keen squash players and were part of the Parklands Sports Club team in Nairobi ... Sandra was Junior Squash Champion and yours truly the veteran squash champion of Kenya three years in a row."

While at school, I came under the inspirational influence of Mr Anthony D’Souza, who was one of the greatest hockey coaches in Kenya. He was an ex-Lusitanians player and knew the game as it should be played at the highest level and passed this knowledge to the likes of Alu Mendonca, Anthony Vaz, Reggie Monteiro, Renato Monteiro, Reynolds D’Souza, Hilary Fernandes, Edgar and Egbert Fernandes and myself. Mr D’Souza also showered his knowledge and several generations of young Goan boys and girls who attended Dr Ribeiro’s.

Goan hockey reached its dizzy heights in Kenya mainly because of this Maths and English teacher.

My ticket to the Olympics was playing in the Emar D’Souza Gold Cup-winning teams (twice) and I was spotted by the selectors. I got into the team in 1958, Rome Olympics 1960, Tokyo 1964 (sixth-place finish, arguably Kenya’s greatest team, Mexico City 1968 (stand-in captain) and finished playing international hockey in 1970. However, continued playing at club level past the age of 55.

When we first won the Gold Cup with the RGI, I played at centre forward. I represented Kenya at centre forward at the opening of Kampala’s Lugogo Stadium by the Queen Mother in 1958. I moved to centre half for the RGI and left half for Kenya.

In my professional career I also chased gold as hard as I did on the hockey field.

I was introduced to the Old Mutual by the then district manager Tony Lobo. In my first year, I won the award for the Top Salesman in the World for the Old Mutual.

It was customary for the Top Salesman in the World to be flown into apartheid Capetown.  However, when they realised I was not white, they decided the presentation party would be held at the Pan Afric Hotel in Nairobi. Old Mutual’s top management flew in for the event in 1972. Unfortunately, the Old Mutual closed down in 1973, because of the changing political climates.

I changed careers in that I went into selling chemicals for a couple of years but fortunately was roped back into the insurance business by the manager for American Life Insurance Company, Mr Walter Nyadwe, in 1976. And I never looked back and went on to become the Top Producer Worldwide for the Gold Contest 1979. I have maintained my links with AIG ever since and to this day at 81 I do business with the company who took over AIG in Canada, the Bank of Montreal Insurance Company (BMO).

Soon after migrating to Canada, I was introduced to the great game of golf 22 years ago and which I still play pretty passionately.  From the very first year, I have run a charity tournament called the annual Tusker Classic which has raised thousands for charities in Kenya, India and local in Canada.

The secret of my success was my late wife, my darling Ivy, who still inspires me to this day. We raised four children and eight grandkids. We have been blessed to be a close-knit family.

PS: My three all-time sporting heroes are (1) Muhammad Ali (2) George Best (Ireland and Manchester United soccer) (3) Cajetan (Cajie) Fernandes (Bombay and Kenya field hockey).

And life goes on ….

Hilary and his "Master"

 

 


Hilary Fernandes

The Wizard of D*

I must confess: From the first moment I saw him play, I was an instant fan (without misshaping my integrity as a journalist), some whose admiration of the player and the man has never faded. As a young boy I never held a hockey stick in my hand. Unlike that other mob, Dr Ribeiro Goan School, St Teresa’s Boys School in Eastleigh was not big on sport. A one-armed student Kersi Rustomji cut the grass in very large square patch and fashioned cricket pitch and I think cricket died after his class graduated high school. There was another block where the grass was occasionally cut to create a soccer field of sorts and was played on now and again. Dr Ribeiro’s, on the other hand, was blessed with some of the best sports girls and boys in a large variety of sports.

 

Hence, when I joined the Daily Nation as a Sports Reporter I had to learn several sports in a hurry. Two men who spent many, many hours discussing, debating, arguing various points of hockey  were Hilary Fernandes and former club player and international umpire Oscar D’Souza. I remain indebted.

 

SOME folks used to say in complete admiration: Hilary was probably born with a hockey stick in his hand. Yet others would swear that he was blessed with one of the finest attacking hockey brains anywhere. In his time, he was the headline behind many a Kenya, Sikh Union and Railway Goan Institute win. As a young journalist who was privileged to see him play, it was easy to see why he was more often than not the headline: he was the creative genius who fashioned goals for others to score or scored himself.

Crouched low to the ground with the hockey stick seemingly attached to the ball, Hilary looked like a lioness or a cheetah on a kill and he applied the finish to his own “kill” (scoring goals) with same finesse the two animal species are famous for. Yet, the label most suited for him was “the wizard of dribble”. His wrong-footed opposing defenders almost with every attack Kenya mounted on the opposition.

He was also a crafty devil. If there was no clear shot at goal available he would with greatest of calm, the innocence of a new born babe imprinted on his face and without a hint of guilt of wrong doing, he would flick the ball onto feet of the opposing player in front of the scoring area of the goalmouth. For intents and purposes, the not guilty verdict was based on the “fact” that he was passing the ball to a fellow player or in the processing of beating an opposing player.

The thing about Hilary was that he was great at reading the game and the opponents he played against. While mounting an attacking he was, like a great chess player, thinking three and four moves ahead of anyone else.  To this he added the deftest of flicks to the right or left, a gentle push forward to be swooped on with the speed of a bullet followed by the lethal hit into the back of the goal net with the keeper left open mouthed and clutching at air.

The short corner brought into play his friend and captain Avtar Singh Sohal (Tari) who was often recognised as the best full back and penalty corner converter at both Olympic and international level. He was Kenya’s open-secret weapon.

What were your most memorable internationals/Olympics/World Cup games?

 

He was selected for three Olympics: Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964. He played for Kenya in World Cups in ……… Among Goans, he has won the most medals for winning the M R De Souza Gold Cup with Kenya Police, Railway Goan Institute and the Sikh Union making him the most decorated of Goan hockey players anywhere.

So how did it start?

He was born on October 22, 1937 in Nairobi. Of his brothers,Leo was an Olympian and Kenya international. Nereus played for Kenya but migrated before he could settle into a hockey career in Kenya.

 

 


A genius called Master

A personal tribute by Hilary Fernandes

During my school days at Dr Rebeiro’s Goan School in Nairobi, Kenya I was very fortunate to come in contact with and later to be coached by this educationist and sport administrator who was known to us all as Master

Anthony D’Souza. Simply because he taught Maths and English in our school.

He was or may have opted to train and select players for the school’s A and B hockey teams.

We did not know of his accomplishments as a hockey player. His very modest introduction to us was that he had played hockey for the world famous Lusitanians Hockey team in Bombay. Although he was not an Olympian, he was going to be our coach.

This is how it all unfolded: he called on all those that were interested in playing hockey to turn out on a Saturday afternoon at the Railway Goan Institute ground. The turnout was very good with approximately 50 of showing up. He immediately made a list noting the name, age and preferred position for the trials. It was after two hours or so that he gathered all of us and read out the short list that he had created and read out the names.

I was happy that I made the list and it is from that day on, that I’m thankful for having been under his guidance. He was one of the greatest coaches from whom I learned every skill that is used in the sport and he had the ability and flair to disperse it to you. He made me and all the other Goan Olympians famous. I personally owe ever thing to him.  I was very fortunate as he coached me in all the skills and tricks he himself used as a player. He had played exactly the same positions that I did… inside right. He was so knowledgeable about the game that he could read the game within minutes of its start and execute a game plan.

Anthony was a well-respected person in the hockey circles and in my opinion one of the greatest hockey coaches that I have ever known. We are all forever in debited to him for his undivided attention in sharing with us his skills and talent in making us the great hockey players of yester years.

He too gained international status as he was an International Umpire and also was appointed as a coach of the Kenya team at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. In previous years he also accompanied the Kenya National Hockey team as Manager and Coach on various international tours abroad.

It was some 40 years or so when I received a heart wrenching letter from him informing me, that he had been diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and that he did not have much time left, but was happy that he had joined his family in London, England.  He passed away shortly and his passing away left a void in the hearts of the many Goan Olympians he had trained.

However till today his name surfaces in any hockey conversation especially when one is asked, where did you learn to play the game of hockey and who were you coached by. Now you have the answer. Only one person: my Coach, my Friend. The late Anthony D’Souza.

You are gone but will never be forgotten by many.

Thank you for I owe it all to you. Rest In Peace, till we meet again. Hilary.

 

*The Wizard of Dribble (brilliant stick work). The D: half circle in front of goal which is the area from which scoring permitted. Outside the D counts for nowt.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Bertha Fernandes hockey star

 Bertha Fernandes



Bertha Fernandes, second from right seated, with the Kenya team


H

 






HE as he late Egbert Fernandes, perhaps Kenya's greatest hockey centre forward.

She was Bertha Fernandes, one of the most capped Goan hockey stars. 



It was always going to be a match made in sport:

 

I started playing hockey when I was 16 years old. I first played with Ragtimers and later with the famous Collegians hockey team which was coached by one of the most respected men in hockey, the international hockey umpire Peter Barbosa.

 

During my time with the Collegians, we played a lot of hockey, took part in the domestic league competition comprising of various hockey teams from different clubs in Nairobi. We also toured several places like Mombasa, Tanga, Dar-es- Salaam, Zanzibar and were victorious in all these places. I did not play hockey at school, as St. Teresa’s Girl’s School did not have the facilities, but I did take part in all track and field events. I also played Netball and competed with different schools in Nairobi.

 

Fortunately, I excelled in all of the above.

 

I joined the Spartans Athletics Club in Nairobi, but stayed with them for a short time because I had hockey on my mind. After Collegians finished as a team, I played for the once whites-only Impala Club for a while. I would be about 19 years old when I was selected to represent Kenya. The father of hockey coaching in Kenya, the great Mahan Singh, was our coach and he took my game to another level. Yes, I was the most capped Goan player in the Kenya Team. I started playing right wing, then right inner, and sometimes centre forward. I played against All England, South African Proteas, and Uganda (several times). I got along with all my teammates.

 

I have lots of good memories of my hockey career. One was when I was selected to play against the All England Women’s hockey team. My mother, brothers and sisters, fans and friends, all turned up at the Nairobi City Park Stadium to cheer me on.

 

I remember the important build-up to the game, the warm-up, the cheers, the vision of scoring Although I played a number of internationals against Uganda, this was something special. Playing for your country was awesome. Hockey gave me something to be a part of where I felt I belonged. It allowed me to grow closer with people and has introduced me to more friends. I remember the joys of winning and the heartbreak of losing.

 

My favourite Goan male player will always be none other than the dashing centre forward for Kenya, the one and only Egbert Fernandes, later my husband.


Stars Next Door Astrid Diana Fernandes

 

Turning Points

My Special Memories

BY ASTRID DIANA FERNANDES

 

A

 


AS The East African Goan community, now spread far and wide across the world, go down memory lane, one cannot help but be struck by the realisation that the Goans unquestionably had raw and innate sporting talent. Hindsight and our experiences of living in new countries, bring this fact into sharp focus. What is astounding is how many individuals of our time achieved great heights in the sporting arena with the minimal of resources, support or leading-edge coaching.

 

Track & Field and Hockey were my passion.

 In the early 1950’s when we lived on the grounds of the Railway Asian Institute my father, Lazarus Fernandes himself a top sportsman would have my sisters and me run from the club house to the pavilion and back to the club house. This very basic training led me and my sister, Mitelia, to each win the School Championship (Junior and Open) for four successive years. Together, we did this eight years in succession an unprecedented and perhaps unbeaten record. We both went on to be champions at both the RGI and GI sports meets.

I could have achieved another unparalleled record winning both the Junior and Open school championship at the same meet. I had the Junior Championship in the bag and needed just one point to win the Open division as well. Midway through the meet, Father Comerford, the Principal, drew me aside and told me that I was not to hog the limelight by winning all the events. Intimidated, I chose to not run in the final event! It was a turning point decision that I have always regretted. I never told my parents.

 Subsequently, I joined the Spartans Track and Field group. Trifa and Nifa DeSouza, Bertha Fernandes and I were four women athletes in a group of several men. We practised regularly at the Railways track on Princess Elizabeth Highway (now Uhuru Hwy). We did not have a dedicated coach and it was the men who coached us as best they could. We had little in the way of basic athletic equipment – everything was light years behind even ten-year-old standards. My best showing was the 220 finals at the Kenya Championship held in Kisumu. My long-held dream was to represent the country at the Olympics but I was born too early for that dream to become reality.

Goan schoolteacher, Mr Stanley DeSouza, took on the challenge of forming the school’s first girls hockey team. With enthusiastic dedication, he succeeded in moulding us into a winning team. Our basic resources were thrown into sharp relief when we played league games at the Kenya High School (KHS). The extent and the quality of their facilities was startling. We were envious but knew our place in the Kenyan compartmentalised society.

It was my mother, Lourdinha, who dragged my sister, Joana Civita, outside of our hockey comfort zone. She talked our Nairobi Goan Housing Estate neighbours, Maggie and Martie Rodrigues, into taking us under their wing. They played for the Ragtimers. Soon our shyness faded and our game vastly improved as we played with the team’s many skilled players. There were also handsome chaps working out with us. The social aspect of Ragtimers going on picnics, parties, learning the cha cha cha made for carefree and happy times. Down the road, I became the youngest captain. Playing for the RGI came later and is another great memory. Captain, Nora Braganza, and coaches, Alu Mendonca and (?) Chong, were tireless and generous. The team was at its peak and hard to beat. Later I was proud to captain the side.

Perhaps my most enduring hockey memory was experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A surprise letter from the Kenya Women’s Hockey Association inviting me to join the national training squad was a thrill. I was on cloud nine. During weeks of arduous training sessions under Mr. Mahan Singh I was in top form. But at the critical two-day selection trials in Nakuru my game let me down and badly I was tired and hungry after the long drive and my game was unrecognizable. The damage was done and, notwithstanding my excellent performance during weeks of training, there was no second chance. I was devastated. I was chosen to be the non-travelling reserve and later played for the President’s XI against a visiting South African team. Another of my life’s turning point.

Mostly it is the happy memories of my sprinting and hockey days that are uppermost. Flying down the 100 yards track, totally oblivious of everything around me, and breasting the tape is the best of those wonderful memories.

 

 

 

 

 


Basher Hassan, one of the best, always!

  Basharat   (Basher) Hassan As a kid growing up in Eastleigh and its environs in Nairobi, Kenya we had our own sports heroes but it was no ...