ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Memorable slap and a lesson for life

Earle Fernando

St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, the school which has produced several top notch sportsmen recently lost one of its greatest teachers/sports administrators of all times, with the demise of E.N.S. (Earle) Fernando, who died at the age of 74. He was a teacher and prefect of games for a long period of time.

He was a fabulous teacher of English, who would have got thousands of freshers to talk, write and communicate freely in English during his lifetime, with his masterly ways of teaching English.

He was also a great disciplinarian. He set an example to others by deed as well. He taught every one to respect true values, to prioritize them and to apply them in their day-to-day-lives. I vividly remember a particular incident, which enabled me to learn the lesson of a lifetime!

This took place exactly 35 years ago whilst Mr. Fernando was the prefect of games (PoG) at St. Sebastian’s. We had one of the strongest, if not the strongest, basket ball team amongst the schools at the time, having won the championship trophy at the All Island Inter School Basket Ball Tournaments, almost in every age group from Under 15 to Under 19 continuously for a couple of years.

One of the biggest challenges came from De Mazenod College, Kandana, that possessed a great basket ball player at that time who later turned out to be a great national player as well. The strategy we adopted was to play “Man to Man” I was selected for the role by our coach and I did my part to the best of my ability. Though I was not such a fantastic player, that particular day, the day belonged to me.

True, I played a bit of a rough game, having got hit painfully several times by my opposing number, but I did well to control him.
We were overjoyed by our superb victory.

The players were about to celebrate the great victory inside the players’ room, when in came the PoG, Mr. Fernando. We stood up like heroes expecting a free flow of words of praise. The PoG instead, walked straight up to me and slapped me on the face. Though the slap was not as hard as he was capable of, it took me a couple of seconds to come to terms with it.

The very clear words from him thereafter, brought me back to my real senses.

“Rohan, you played a horrible game not worthy of a Sebastianite. I would have enjoyed it, had we won without that rowdy display. It is not whether you WIN or LOSE that matters, but how you play the game.”

It was an abject lesson for all times! Not only to me personally, but to all those involved in sports.

The best part of the story is not in the particular incident or the slapping or the advice itself, but what happened a few days thereafter.

He walked up to me again one evening and said, “Rohan, I am sorry that you were very hurt and upset about the treatment you got from me. I wanted all of you to know what sportsmanship is all about. Though I feel sorry about it myself, I don’t want you to forget the incident but to keep the lesson in mind for ever.”

I used to meet him very often during the last 30 years since I married his brother’s niece. Every time I met him it reminded me of the important lesson he wanted us to keep in mind forever that how you do something is as important as the result itself.
May he Rest in Peace!

By Rohan B. Fernando

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.