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Blast from the past

Joel Sahai
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

For a week commencing this Sunday, a gathering in Suva, of close to 40 veterans and former members of the St. Columba's Football Club will take place, marking the 60th Anniversary of its founding in 1952.

Just over 15 will be from Australia, New Zealand, Vancouver and the United States while the rest will be from Fiji.

The Club merged with the then (Marist) High School Soccer Club in the late 70's and the name changed to Marist/St. Columba's Football Club which still is active in Suva soccer competitions. The deep-rooted links, nostalgia, allegiance and affection for the "Saints" however, remain steadfast amongst these die-hards.

Organizers have planned a week-long programme including several social events where those who were involved during the early days of the Club will be reminiscing the past and sharing their experiences with each other. Prominent amongst those coming for the occasion are Michael Joseph Karunan from Vancouver and John Lal from Sydney, both of whom played for the Club and later represented the Suva district from the 1950s as well as in the national Fiji team, for several years. Following their outstanding performance in the Fiji representative side's first overseas tour to Australia in 1961 they, together with another former Club member Vince Lal now living in Vancouver, were offered a two year semi-professional contract to play for a Club in New South Wales.

While this was later declined by Michael Karuran, John and Vinod Lal accepted the offer and completed the two year stint. Recognition of sporting merits and in such manner was virtually non-existent in those days - over 50 years ago.

John Lal was later offered a professional coaching position by a Club in Griffith, New South Wales in 1978 which he successfully undertook for nearly two decades before retiring from soccer in the late 1990s.

The first gathering will be on Sunday May 20th at the Marist Brothers Primary School (formerly St. Columba's School after which the soccer Club was named) in Toorak for a kick-around for "old times" sake following which the group will meet with Br. Sam Eathorne for refreshments. Later that morning the group will visit the family home of the late Mr and Mrs Ismail Ibrahim in Spring Street, Toorak to acknowledge its deep appreciation and sincere gratitude of their late parent's selfless, dedicated and invaluable services rendered to the Club. Ismail served as its secretary and later as a vice president, from the early years of the 1950s through to the 1970s.

In this endeavour he was, at all times, fully supported by his wife Mrs. Amina Bibi (Auntie Guddi) who, not only provided much needed moral support but physical assistance as well, in ensuring that the Club's team members always appeared in neat, clean and presentable attire for their weekly sporting competitions.

The evenings following with include social gatherings hosted by visiting members from Australia, Vancouver, New Zealand, Fiji and the existing Marist/St.Columba's Football Club which will take place at different Clubs in Suva as well as private homes. The culmination of the week-long programme will be an Anniversary Dinner on Saturday May 26th at the Fiji Club. The Club adopted the school name, a Catholic institution and serving as its President and Coach from the early years was the Reverend Br Bertrand who was named as being the biggest influence in their sporting careers as well as a role model, by several of the former members of the Club.

He, together with the other Marist Brothers, Anthony and Cassian, both of whom taught at Marist Brothers High School, which several members of the Saints Club attended, inculcated a code of discipline, values and principles of good moral character and religious teachings, all of which would in some manner, have formed the foundation upon which these members molded not only their personal lives but also those of their families and friends.

* Former members of the two Clubs who may not be aware of the event are asked to immediately get in touch with either Vijay Madhavan on mobile (7088 120) Vincent Rajalingam (9948 388) or Joel Sahai (9208 412).

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