A rare double international to come out of the school by the canal in Bambalapitiya St.Peter’s College in the 1960’s and 1970’s was ROYDEN DE SILVA who could be described as one of the finest players to handle a rugby and a basketball.
Nice and strongly built for sport, this lad was unassuming, likeable and who had a string of friends and supporters who admired and cheered his amazing natural ability in both sports.
DE SILVA who did yeoman service for his school, club and later Sri Lanka will be honoured by his club Havelock Sports Club and will be deservedly elected a Life Member of the historic Havelocks Sports Club at its AG today. When his name is proposed, seconded and confirmed there sure would be deafening cheers from the members present.
The golden era
To his basketball career and he played during what could be described as the golden era of basketball that was the 1960s and 1970s. After learning his rudiments of the game at SPC under a hard working coach Naufer Maharoof he graduated to big time playing for Old Petes and Orients.
That was the era when those who can be called gladiators of the game dominated the cager courts wherever they played. Crowds used to flock to the floodlit Army Courts at Echelon Square where now stands the Galadari Hotel, Police Courts Bambalapitiya, Old Bens Courts, Kotahena, Peterite and Joes courts to soak in the action that was top class.
To DE SILVA and after he played for his school with great distinction and when he moved to the club scene were a galaxy of cagers. He made his national debut and dribbled alongside players who could have held their best against the best that Asia had to offer.
Names that remain etched
In that era I covered basketball for the ‘Daily Mirror’ and ‘Times’ and names the names that remain etched my memory are that of those who played for the University – C.Thurairaja, Jesudhasan, Rasalingam, Ponnambalam and Wilson. Thurairaja was so versatile that he played basketball, rugby, badminton, squash and golf for the country. Will there be another Thurairaja?
Then there were the star studded Old Bens who were great attractions with their all court play. They were Cosmas Perera, Percy Perera, Vijaya and Gamini Silva, Milroy de Silva, Sam Lovell, Shelton Pietersz and Edward Sumanasekera.
Incidentally Cosmas had the rare honor of being the first national captain of any sport to produced by the green, white and green St. Benedict’s College. Watching Cosmas’ all court play and plonking baskets from here, there and everywhere prompted Fennel an American who played for Peace Corp to say that Cosmas could have fitted into any NBA team in America. GREAT.
Great honour and glory
Then the player who brought the greatest honor and joy to school, club and country was the lithe limbed pencil slim Percy Perera who was adjudged the ‘Best Shooter’ in Asia at the Asian Games held in Bangkok in 1966. Playing on the right he would slice through any defence and plonk in match winning baskets that had to be seen to believed .
In addition Percy was a top fast bowling all rounder for St.Benedict’s College and later for Saracens in Sara Trohy Cricket. When the success of these two stalwarts are spoken about the coach who made them what they achieved was the coach of all basketball coaches Ram Suntheraligam who should have a special niche in Benedictine cager history.
Playing in Army colours were Capt. George, Amaradasa, Daluwatte and Radiligama come to mind. Later Thurairaja who completed his medical career joined the Army and made them a force to be reckoned with in local basketball.
Other cager players
Other cagers DE SILVA played with were – Reinzie de Silva, Vernon Davidson, Hilary White, Graham Ludowyeke, Russel Baptist, Ranjan Senanayeke, Noel Pereira, Malsiri Perera, Elmo and Duncan Jayawardena, Randiligama and Remigious Perera.
It was sad to note that Remigious fell victim to the bomb blast while attending service at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochcikade on Easter Sunday on April 21, 2019. He flew down from Australia leaving his family behind to attend a wedding. His name is there among the dead in a list inside the church. May his soul rest in peace.
In ruby at school DE SILVA was active with players such as Darrell Wimalarane, Aubrey Patternott and Rodney Patternott and Ronnie Gooneratne. His club mates at Havelocks were – Jeyer Rodriguesz, Tyronne Holdenbottle, Desmond Harridge, Thajone Savangham, Hafi Abdeen, Jeff and Dan Ratnadan, Glen Vanlangenberg, Jainudeen and Angelo Wickremaratne.
Playing for the country
Some of his rugby mates when he played for the country under his old schoolmate Hadji Omar were R. Abeydeera, Wimalaratne, Didacus de Almedia, Y.C.Chang, Mike de Alwis, Bryan Baptist, Kamal Ratnapala and Hamzi Hamid. The names mentioned are ones that come to mind and no names have been willfully omitted.
That era also saw a hive of activity in school, club and national basketball. There were the inter-school tournaments, club tournaments and international tournaments.
Club tournaments that come to mind are Victor Wijeratnam Trophy, Col. Saverimuttu Trophy, Pioneer cup and many other tournaments that don’t come to mind. Teams from India toured here regularly and Sri Lanka reciprocated too playing in tournaments abroad with the Asian Games being the most looked forward to.
Presidents who helped
Presidents who kept tipping the game were James Sarangapany, Saverimuttu and Nagalingam. Some of them spending their own money to keep the game alive and tipping.
The administrators who sweated for the game and kept its interest going were – Kathiragamathamby, Mahadevan, Nadaraja, Wise and that man who came from Jaffna MAHASEN. There was also Fr. Weber from Batticaloa who did a lot for the player, game and country.
I remember another mediaman who emerged from my school and played cricket, did athletics and played basketball describing Fr. Weber and his cagers as cager decons. He was Maxwel de Zoysa who also wrote basketball for the ‘Daily Mirror’. Another top cager writer at that time was the versatile Premanath Moraes.
True and loyal friend
Edward Sumanasekera who was no mean cager for Old Bens and YMCA who was a great buddy of ROYDEN at McClaren Shipping where they worked described ROYDEN as a true and loyal friend ever ready to help. Sumanasekera who is now domiciled with his wife in Los Angeles says he misses ROYDEN’S friendship.