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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Academics Vs Sportsmen

By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

I remember Bryan Claessen as one of the finest sportsmen of my era at Wesley College. Although he was eight years my senior we struck up a friendship when he contacted me after reading my article in the 125th Anniversary School Souvenir. He spoke to me many times about the lack of recognition given to academics from school compared to sportsmen. He felt this was grossly unfair. Coming from a sportsman of his calibre I gave serious thought to this issue.

I have maintained the Double Blue International website for 20 years. In the DBI there is a whole page for Sports but no pages for Academics or their achievements. So I am partly to be blamed for this ‘willful neglect’. Even in the daily newspapers there is a section for sports but none for academia although they get a mention in the general news items.

During the school years we always gave respect to those who were clever and did well in their studies. The end of term reports and the year end promotions to the class above depended on the academic performance. The Annual Prize Giving made awards to those who performed well academically. The Medals and the Scholarships were special awards for bright students. So the academics too got their fair share of applause and acclaim.

Over the years I have enquired from many sportsmen and academics. I have also asked sportsmen who are academics. I asked my son who played cricket and hockey for a British Public School and followed a course in medicine at Cambridge where he was awarded the Cambridge hockey blue. He said on looking back he was more proud of his achievements in sports than his academics. He said academic achievements were for his personal gain and career, whereas the sports were for his team and his school and University. This perhaps explains the extra recognition and adulation one gets from the school and friends.

Bryan Claessen was a gentleman in every sense of the word and I appreciate his concern. Team Sports have been in existence since Greek and Roman times. We live in a world that loves sports. Bryan is right, Academic awards are very few even when inventions and discoveries benefit humanity and the society. The recognition is disproportionately poor. Such are the ways of the world.

We all enjoy sports and remember sportsmen more than academics. The clever clogs at school do get their recognition. I will continue to manage the Double Blue International without a page for Academics. They fit in well in the rest of the DBI pages.


Bryan Claessen passed away in Adelaide Australia  on 16th March 2010, at the age of 74.

(This appeared in Double Blue International administered by ND)

13 comments:

  1. Lucky thanks for posting this. I am bursting with admiration for the creator of Double Blue International and maintaining it for 20 years i.e. our own Nihal Douglas Amerasekera. I have just looked at that website and learned so much. It's great credit to its originator and we have to be proud of having had him as our batch mate. In this present article we are remembering one of the foremost sports personalities of our country, although I must confess I didn't know very much about Bryan Claessen except his name, until I read this. So I want to end with a big cheer for all of you, Lucky, Nihal, Sanath and others who bring back to our notice some facts and stories which are bound to go down the history of the country, especially it's sports heritage. Well done, all of you! From Zita

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  2. Zita
    Thank you for those kind comments. You made me blush.

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  3. Nihal, thank you very much for renewing this debate. When we were in school, scholars were acknowledged only once an year i.e. at the annual prize giving. On the other hand sportsman were admired right throughout the season and for many many years there after.
    I remember few other Wesleyites who were good cricketers. Lou Adihetty( later a Principal at Wesley?), LR Goonethilaka, Darrell Maye, Priyalal Rodrigo(whom I used to play Gin Rummy with ,until he passed away few years ago). My classmate Darrell Lieversz captained our team in 1962 and we beat St Peter's College, by an innings(Russell and David Heyn were members of the Peterite team) Darrell took plenty of wickets in that match and he told me last May that it was his best bowling performance in school cricket. The next week end was the match against Wesley and the Evening Observer carried a head line 'Lieversz vs. Wesley". It was written by Manik de Silva (Sunna's elder brother) who was sports journalist at that time. Although we were the favourites we were soundly beaten. Darrell's father who had also captained our team had told Darrell that it was a very unfair head line for a teenager.
    Sanath

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    1. I saw how Liverz decimated the Peterite batting. He was at his peak , specially in that match was near unplayable.
      L.R. Gunatilleke was at one time deadly too ( especially on matting) with his left arm bowling , way quicker than Darrel Lieversz.Lieversz at his peak had terric control of line, length & movement & quick enough to cause havoc.
      ia





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  4. Sanath
    Thank you for jogging my memory to those happy events and people. I am still in contact with LR Goonetilleke who is helping the school. Darrell Maye is in Sydney whom I met at the Grand Reunion of 2012 in Colombo. Priyalal whom we called PS was a fine badminton and tennis player too. He was better known for his prowess in contract bridge in later years. In 2012 he was very ill when I saw him. Lou Adhihetty lived in Switzerland most of his adult life and we were in email contact until he died in 2009. I remember them all at Wesley in their heyday basking in glory. It is interesting to reflect on how life panned out for each of them.
    In my memory Royal produced outstanding cricketers and match winning teams.

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  5. How many will remember Alexander Fleming who discovered Penicillin and Edward Jenner's discovery of Smallpox vaccine. They transformed human life and society. Academics too deserve their place in history.

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  6. Edward Jenner rediscovered the Small Pox vaccine in 1796. (Chinese had used it earlier). However it was initially rejected by his colleagues.In 1802 it was used in Ceylon. In 1808 Jenner told his medical colleagues who were critical of him"In the Island of Ceylon, my account states that upward of thirty thousand had been vaccinated a twelve months ago.I could march you around the world and where ever you rested you should see scenes like this. There I have honour. Here I have none".In 1886 ,it was made compulsory,by ordinance No. 20
    Sanath

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  7. Nihal, you are quite right;we had excellent teams. The names I remember very well are, Nirmalingam, Perimpanayagam, Ranjith de Silva (surgeon),Brendon Gooneratne (parasitologist,writer etc etc),Fitzroy Crozier, Patrick Poulier, Michael Wielle, Lorenze Pereira (who was acclaimed as the best ever sportsman Royal had produced, at the 125th anniversary dinner of the Royal College Union. His father was Prof EOE Pereira,Dean Engineering Faculty and Vice -Chancellor), Mahinda Wijesinghe (who took 4 wickets in 4 balls against Nalanda, and is a sports journalist. His elder brother is Professor Channa Wijesighe. Psychiatrist) Sarath Samarasinghe, Lalith and Nanda Senanayake, Nihal Kodituwakku,Daya Sahabandu, Michael Dias,Harsha Samarajeeva SS Kumar, Darrell Lieversz etc.(the latter two were my classmates although I caught up with, Lalith, Michael, Nihal, Sarath, Nanda and Harsha)
    Sanath

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  8. One of the early cricket I saw were as when Ubhaya De Silva was captain. since I have been a regular watching cricket from Reid Avenue and recall with much nostalgia some of the great games. Remember Brendon Gooneratne, the Lingam brothers and also the Kodituwakku and Pereira brothers. Sarath Samarasinghe was a fine captain and a stylish wicket keeper. Daya Sahabandu was such a fine bowler at first a fast bowler then he turned to spin. I met Michael Dias, Nanda Senanayake and Sarath Samarasinghe at a dinner given by Senthil Sinniah who captained Wesley in 1960. Ah those were the days!,

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  9. Nihal and Sanath, I am amazed at the memory you both have of the names of these famous sports people their achievements and other details. It shows how well these sportsmen did and the fact that they live in people's memories is further credit to their achievement. And as I said earlier Lanka can be proud of her sons and daughters in sport. Thanks again for bringing this knowledge to people like me who was at best an armchair sports person. Rita/Zita

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