From the 2nd edition of Quadrangle, 2015.
Just a couple of years after its formation, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10 fielded a cricket team and defeated Royal College in the inaugural cricket match. In the same year- 1898, they also fielded a soccer team and trounced Royal College F.C and St. Benedict’s College F.C. in the maiden soccer fixtures.
On par with the public-school culture prevailed during the postcolonial era most of those public schools maintained the tradition of naming its respective sporting entities as “Clubs”. It is therefore not surprising to see the Josephian cricket team being tagged “St. Joseph’s C.C” (Cricket Club”), football team as “SJC F.C.” (Football Club) and tennis team as “SJC T.C.” (Tennis Club) among other sports clubs established in the school. This trend became necessary as staff members too actively participated in school matches.
When St. Joseph’s College F.C. confronted the Rovers FC, rated as the ‘best all-round Ceylonese Football team in the island’ at the time, on September 20, 1905 it was reported: “The main feature of the play of the Rovers was the unnecessary display of rough tactics. One player (Rovers FC) put himself out of action at the very commencement, by first tripping over Fr. McCarthy, who was in full swing down touchline and then by an injudicious collision with Fr. Croctaine.”
In the formative years the season opener was with Royal College FC. And when St. Joseph’s defeated them in 1905 at the Darley Road grounds where “Mr. Laurance was kind enough to act as Referee”, it recorded the 8th successive victory for them. It took ten years from the inaugural kick-off for the Royalists to record their maiden victory over St. Joseph’s College. In 1908 the match ended in a win for the Royalists by one goal to nil.
Another salient feature of Josephian soccer in the first phase of the twentieth century was the participation of well-known cricketers on the soccer field. They all opted to dribble the football at the end of the cricket season. The long list of cricketer turned footballers at SJC includes the names of K.W. Devanayagam, Robert Fernando, K.C. Pathmanathan, Bertram Markus, Fred Perera (who represented Ceylon whilst still at school), Hector Perera (snr.), Fairlie Dalpathado, Joy and Berchman de Alwis, Desmond Jordan and Trevor Croner (Schoolboy Cricketer of the year – 1977 and who represented Sri Lanka under 18 soccer team at the South Asian Schools tourney in 1976 and scored the only goal for Sri Lanka in the tournament), among many others.
Fairlie Dalpathado who was considered as the ‘fastest bowler in schools’ during his schooldays, led St. Joseph’s in 1943 to emerge un-official school champs. They beat St. Thomas’ by 7 wkts, Royal by 5 wkts, St. Anthony’s Kandy by 8 wkts and Trinity by 7 wkts. At the end of the season, a historic match was arranged between champion SJC team and the Combined Colleges XI picked by S.P. Foenander. Interestingly, a good number of players of Dalpathado’s champion cricket team appeared on the soccer field during the second term. And again to represent the college under the captaincy of Fairlie Dalpathado!
Some of the cricketers who were in the 1943 Josephian soccer team were Fairlie Dalpathado (Capt.), Franky Matthysz, Malcolm de Costa, Cletus de Mel, Hugh Perumal, Derrick Ludowyke and Stan Oorloff, among others.
Right from the inception the Josephians fielded a formidable side and emerged school champs for many a time. At the end of the 1927 season the Josephians declared that they were unbeaten for the last eight years!
Anyhow for the first time in the history St. Joseph’s were beaten by the Benedictines 2 goals to nil at the Tamil Union grounds in 1928. Centenary Souvenir of St. Benedict’s remarked: “In 1928 St. Benedict’s did win the football championship for the first time, after being runners-up for six years in succession and ousting its famous rival, St. Joseph’s College from the championship pedestal on which it had stood for eight years.” Edward Jayatunge led the SBC champion team of 1928.
From then onwards the Josephian – Benedictine annual encounter turned out to be the school soccer classic of the season. For the respective school supporters it was the “big match” in soccer. Like the Josephian – Peterite match in cricket.
During the twelve-year period from 1944 to 1955, St. Benedict’s produced not less than nine unbeaten champion teams. And again they excelled in nineteen sixties having many a champion team.
Referring to the captaincy of Benedictine soccer legend Albert Fernando (who led two unbeaten teams in 1947 & 1948) St. Benedict’s College Centenary magazine commented: “The chief characteristics of the team were the great hearted captaincy of Albert Fernando, who won the admiration of his team mates by his initiative and leadership; ————It must be noted that Albert Fernando, well known on the field of soccer at St. Benedict’s from 1945 to 1949 has seen only two defeats during the course of five years; while as captain from 1947 to 1949 he has seen only one defeat in inter-collegiate matches.”
The “Blue & White” magazine had this interesting note in its 1951 edition. “…..The next was the Benedictine match, the big match of the season. That day – 13th of July 1951 – was a wet day and the grounds (Kotahena) were quite damp. The booters had an added advantage. Our side was fully booted and they (SBC) had 7 booted players. When the match commenced everyone expected to see St. Benedict’s score goal after goal against us. But it was a different story.” That day Josephian centre forward Peter Ranasinghe, who later went on to lead the national team was at his best and was involved in all three goals scored by his team.
When the Josephians hosted the Benedictines in 1964, the match was staged as part of the August Festival Celebrations organized by the Darley Road School. The match was played on a festive mood before a capacity crowd.
This writer could recollect the carnival atmosphere prevailed at the school premises on that day. There were rows of small huts and stalls selling refreshments, snacks, sweets, egg hoppers, ice cream, tea and coffee. A good number of class rooms were converted into exhibition halls. Entertainment shows such as “Musical Extravaganza with the Jetliners” were to be staged at the swimming pool premises later in the day.
It was with this carnival set-up the 1964 Josephian – Benedictine match commenced.
St. Joseph’s team was led by Hesketh Kuruppu and had Desmond Jordan, Melvin Machado, Neville Wijesinghe, Rienzie Fernando, Nimal Weragoda, V. Sandrasagara, Gerard Ekanayake, Mahinda Silva, Mark Fernandopulle and Cecil Balasingham.
St. Benedict’s: P.M. Sebamalai (Capt.), Tilak Peiris, T. Wanigaratnam, G. Lambert, Gerard Gunaratne, Nagasiri Perera, H. Alexander, Suriyakumar Seneviratne, Bernard Fernando, N. Perera, J. Fernando and K. Leon.
The Benedictines started the game with their usual brand of exciting soccer and it looked as if they would score at any moment. But it was the home team that scored first, through deputy skipper Rienzie Fernando who beat the Benedictine goalkeeper Nagasiri Perera with a low drive. A few minutes later, Josephian centre forward Machado with his tremendous ball skill increased the lead to two goals to nil at half time.
After the resumption skipper, Kuruppu and Machado scored again to seal a resounding 4 – 0 Josephian victory. And also to clinch the Chavalier John Rodrigo memorial trophy, awarded for the first time in the history of this encounter.
The Benedictine Centenary soccer team trounced St. Joseph’s in the following year – 1965, with an easy 5 goals to one victory. Led by T. Wanigaratnam and coached by former stalwart Edward Jayawardena, they won all ten matches played comfortably scoring 4 or more goals against every opponent.
The day that the Josephians rallied gallantly twice to deny a possible Benedictine victory in 1966 is another memorable soccer classic witnessed in this annual series.
In the 1966 encounter the Benedictines played under the leadership of Suriyakumar Seneviratne whilst Neville Wijesinghe led the Josephians. On the stroke of the half time Gerard Gunaratne (SBC) beat the Josephian goalkeeper Sunil Hettiarachchi with the sharp drive to notch the first goal of the match. That lead remained unchallenged almost till the long whistle before ever reliable Yoga Cruze netted the equalizer. At the end the score board read:SBC 1 – SJC 1.
Thereafter the match was extended into extra time, for the first time in the series.
Midway of the first session of five minutes speedy winger Lambert sent his team ahead once again. SBC 2 – SJC 1. Even in the final session of extra time the Benedictines dominated throughout but in the final minute the Josephians were awarded a penalty kick. And Desmond Jordan found the target successfully to end the match with a two-all draw.
Even to recollect those fantastic soccer memories is a joyful experience.