When a gifted sportsman chose sacrifice over fame | Sunday Observer

When a gifted sportsman chose sacrifice over fame

19 September, 2021
Hishaam Ousman (left) with Zulki Hamid (who also passed away) during their cricketing days at Royal
Hishaam Ousman (left) with Zulki Hamid (who also passed away) during their cricketing days at Royal

He maintained the highest traditions of sportsmanship and was a fine sports ambassador for Royal College:

It has been 30 years since the untimely death of former Royal College boxing star Hishaam Ousman who was felled by an enemy bullet in Weli Oya, Trincomalee on September 11 and an annual ritual for his dear friends and family to remember the life of Lt. Hishaam Ousman who died a war hero during Operation Akunu Pahara.

Hishaam could have had a sparkling and exciting life after leaving school given his immense talents in boxing and cricket. But instead he chose to serve in the defence of his country and in the process lay down his life, a true professional soldier who led from the front.

Ten years before what has come to be known as 9/11 marking the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in the US, the world came crashing down to a family to whom Hishaam was the apple of the eye. During his short life span of 21 years on this earth, he lived life to the full having many accomplishments in his boxing career. A little known fact is that he was also a good cricketer, representing the Royal College second XI team as a wicket-keeper batsman. He was poised to play in the Battle of the Blues big match but the school’s selectors thought otherwise.

Above all he endeared himself to everyone with his gentle nature and disarming smile. He will always remain immortal to friends who mourn his loss going by the tributes to mark his death anniversary.

“My brother Hishaam, I always remember the way you smile and joke with us at the matches we played. There wasn’t a dull moment with you around. My brother Hishaam I know you are up there and calling me and asking me when am I going to join you. I am 51 now, I can honestly tell you my loving brother it won’t be long before I join you. God bless you, your brother from another mother, Demintha. Your Legacy will always remain in our hearts forever,” wrote his second XI team mate Demintha de Silva in a heartfelt tribute on Facebook.

“Heroes are never forgotten, they just keep adding to their legend!,” stated a former Royal College boxing captain Wazir Sourjah.

“One of the Most Scientific Boxers in Sri Lanka school boxing history!,” affirmed Schools Boxing Association President Susantha Weerasena.

“I used to get him my tea time bun from the hostel whenever he came for cricket practice or boxing practice. He was such a humble brother at school,” recalled his friend Mohamed Rizwan.

“Hishaam was a brave officer who sacrificed his life for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. May his soul Rest In Peace,” said Edward de Silva, a former Commander of the Navy Volunteer Force.

“A valiant foot soldier. Hisham, dear brother.. you will always be remembered by us for the sacrifice you made to protect our motherland. We salute you,” summed up former Sri Lanka rugby star DIG Hafeez Marso (rtd).

Priantha Malavi, Technical Advisor of the Royal College boxing team for several decades paid the following tribute to Hishaam!

“I was in Hishaam’s corner for almost all of his fights assisted by the late S.S.J. Perera from 1981-86 and Metha Abeygunawardena in 1987 and 88. I’ve had a ringside view of his career and achievements and consider it a privilege to have been associated with this fine young man. The baby-faced Hishaam was the cynosure of all eyes each time he entered the ring and his superlative performances earned him a large following in Colombo and Kandy.

Hishaam was a talented and gifted boxer whose technique, footwork, ring-craft and beautiful style were a treat to watch and impressed many in boxing circles. His behaviour in the ring was impeccable and I never saw him lose his temper, question a decision or foul an opponent. He was an easy boxer to handle and very responsive and receptive to the efforts and advice of his seconds. He maintained the highest traditions of sportsmanship and was a fine sports ambassador for Royal College.

I went through many tense and anxious moments with Hishaam like when he battled on with a broken nose with H. Gunawardena to annexe the Senior Best Loser’s trophy at the Stubbs Shield meet in 1984 or like when he had to pull out all stops to beat M.J.A. Senaratne to bag the Best Boxer’s trophy at the ABA Junior Championships in 1985. Senaratne had knocked out Gunawardena, who had won the National light fly weight title in 1984, in the semifinals. Nobody expected Hishaam to go the distance in the final but the Royal camp thought otherwise and Hishaam went on to prove that science can overcome brute force. I consider this and the one in which he outpointed Gunawardena in the Stubbs Shield final in 1983 to win the Junior Best Boxer’s Trophy as two of his finest performances.

I first saw Hishaam Ousman in 1978 – then an eight-year-old, eagerly watching his eldest brother Ikraam practising with the Royal College boxing team. The then captain of the Royal College boxing team, the late G.A. Wijenayake encouraged the ‘tiny tot’ to don the gloves and he came under the tutelage of Royal’s grand old boxing coach Danton Obeyesekere who instilled the fundamentals of scientific boxing at an early age.

Hishaam first entered the ring in 1979 representing Royal at the L.V. Jayaweera meet for freshers. Fighting in the under 55lbs weight clash he was beaten by Tissera of St. Mary’s. In the inter-House meet that year Hishaam was adjudged the Best Loser after losing to Harish Bandara in one of the best bouts of the meet. These two boxers were to carry all before them and bring many laurels to Royal College in the 1980s. It was also in 1979 that Hishaam’s other brother Allaam made his debut for Royal.

In 1980. A 10-year-old Hishaam first tasted victory and was adjudged the Best Boxer at the T.B. Jayah meet for Novices held in Kandy. At the Stubbs Shield meet that year he was runner-up to Senaratne of Peradeniya MMV and was adjudged the Best Loser (Junior).

In 1981 at the Stubbs Shield meet held in Kandy, Hishaam won his weight and was adjudged the Junior Best Boxer. He went on to win his weight in the Stubbs Shied meets of 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1987. In 1983 also he was adjudged Junior Best Boxer. In 1984 he was runner-up to H. Gunawardena of Carey and was adjudged the Best Loser (Senior), He did not box in 1986 as he was recovering from hepatitis.

Captaining the team in 1987, Hishaam led Royal to a Stubbs Shield victory. Hishaam also performed with distinction at the ABA Junior Championships and the YMCA Francis Jayewardene Memorial Cup meets. At the ABA Junior Championships held in Kandy in 1985, Hishaam was adjudged the Best Boxer of the meet having out-boxed Senaratne of Peradeniya MMV in a tense final. In 1988, Hishaam was the welterweight winner in the ABA Novices and Intermediates meet. This was to be his last appearance in the ring as he enlisted in the Army as an Officer Cadet in 1989.

Hishaam was also a good cricketer having represented the Royal College second XI as a wicket-keeper batsman.

The guts and courage Hishaam displayed in the boxing ring manifested itself in the battle field as his superiors described him as a fearless soldier who was an example to other officers. Hishaam dropped in to bid me goodbye before going to Diyatalawa to undergo army training. He also visited me after he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in January and prior to joining the Gajaba regiment in the north. He appeared confident in facing the challenges ahead of him. When he came on leave the last time in September he had gone to visit Capt. J.R. Ampemohotti, who captained the Royal College boxing team in 1983, and who had been hospitalised for the past one year following injuries sustained in the battlefield. These incidents bring out the humility and good qualities of this soft spoken unassuming lad who was unaffected by his sporting successes.

Hishaam was very attached to his family, friends, relatives and mentors and the large gathering present at his funeral bore testimony to his popularity. The life of Lt Hishaam Ousman was snuffed out by an enemy bullet on September 11 in Weli Oya.

His untimely death left his family and friends in a state of grief. But memories of Hishaam Ousman will linger in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him.”