FERNANDO made RATNAM Great | Sunday Observer


2 August, 2020

The revival of football from a forgotten past is important as it is one sport that can and is easily promoted in every nook and cranny in the country.

In this column last Sunday we wrote about that great goalkeeper Lawrence Fernando, his move from St. Benedict’s College to St. Joseph’s College and his heroics between the posts. We also lauded the Football Federation of Sri Lanka on their daring to conduct the Professional Super League here in November.

Now we want to mention what Fernando did for his club Ratnam Sports Club that existed in his home town Kotahena, not to forget that there were also several other clubs in the area that kept the game alive and kicking in all tournaments.

The clubs were: Eleven Lions, Kotahena Rangers, Small Pass, Cambridge SC, Renown SC, Old Bens and Serendib SC and leading them all and showing them all how was Ratnam SC after Fernando took over as President.

Fernando was a go-getter. After his playing days were over he moved into the administration and coaching and did a splendid job in both fields that was not easy because football was a hive of activity then.

Fernando was determined to make Ratnam one, if not, the most formidable and feared clubs in the country. He used his coaching expertise and saw to it that he steered them to all finals in tournaments that were played regularly.

One nail-biting and exciting final that the writer was fortunate to watch and which the excitement is still vivid in my memory was a final where Ratnam played against the glamour boys of local football Saunders under lights at the Sugathadasa Stadium in front of a full house of wildly cheering and tom-tom beating Ratnam and Saunders supporters.

In that era Saunders were riding a crest of a wave of success and there was no club that could break their domination because their fortress was impregnable. To do so was quite an achievement and an event to celebrate.

Back to this final and it was played in the early 1960s. Saunders as usual dominated play and were leading 3-nil with about 10 minutes to go and their supporters jubilating confident that another trophy would adorn their shelves.

When everything seemed over the bar, the shouting, as if from nowhere, emerged the hero for Ratnam. The writer does not remember his first name, but he was called Appiah who played right extreme.

Every time Appiah received the ball, he cut through the Saunders defence with some clever dribbling and stunned Saunders and the goalie to hit the net three times to help Ratnam draw level when the referee blew no side. What a final and what dazzling play both sides produced and both sets of supporters were celebrating on the roads till the wee hours of the morning.

Now to add some spice, here is an anecdote that was related by Douglas Gooneratne former Welfare Officer of Lake House who was a football fanatic. There was a referee named ‘Gnana’. After a game the supporters who were not happy with his refereeing ran on to the field and attempted to assault him.

Knowing what was in store ‘Gnana’ dropped to the ground and lay still as if he had fainted. Officials who went to his aid threw water on him and did everything possible to review him, but to no avail. Then that Gooneratne came out with his gem. He said he tried to remove ‘Gnana’s wrist watch when ‘Gnana’ rose protecting his watch. A burlap wakes up even the dead! What a laugh all had.

RENOWN(ed) for football

From Ratnam Football Club we now dribble on to another club from Kotahena (Kochhikade) that made and is making waves in the football scene. That club was named Renown FC by its founder Vincent Pieris, who not being a footballer but a renowned wrestler formed the club.

After Vincent’s demise his two sons Subash and Canute took on the challenge and attracting some outstanding players made the club go from strength to strength and today they are a team to be reckoned with. They first played in a lower division. But showing their skills they made it to the big league and have now earned the tag RENOWNED for football.

In their bid to get to the top they scored a winning goal when they signed on former Benedictine soccer captain who led the school to be inter-school soccer champions in 1961 EDWARD JAYEWARDENE who had taken to coaching having learnt the game and the rudiments of coaching from the one and only Albert Fernando who turned out many champion Benedictine soccer teams.

Fernando was the only soccer coach in the country to have obtained a trainer’s licence from Brazil and Germany. It must be said that Fernando was the only Lankan to have trained with the great Pele. Fernando’s training course in Brazil was made possible by his classmate at SBC Appiah Pathmaraja who was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Brazil at that time.

Jayawardene who was also the national coach of the Sri Lanka team, used his expertise to put the Renown players through their paces and licked into shape a team that was feared by their opponent and who went on to figure in many tournaments and also win finals.

At the outset Renown also had an efficient secretary in Rex Fernando who did the administrative work to the best of his ability to see the club going from strength to strength.

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