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Tribute to a legendary Peterite sportsman – Anton Perera

Posted on 08 March 2014 by admin

Courtesy: The Island of Saturday, March 8, 2014.

The 80th Josephian-Peterite encounter started at the Colombo Oval on Friday. A time for the Joes and Peterites to revel and enjoy the sport and the camaraderie that is associated with this great sporting event. The ‘Battle of the Saints’ was inaugurated in 1933, and has produced many a legend that went on to play nationally.

Names that come to mind are Clive Inman, H.I.K. Fernando, David Heyn, Roy Dias, Vinodhan John, Tony Opatha, Russell Arnold, Rumesh Ratnayaka, Amal Silva, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, and Angelo Perera for the Peterites and Brian Obeyesekere, Chaminda Vaas, Ashley de Silva, Ajith Weerakkody, Michael Van Dort, Dimuth Karunaratne, Thisara Perera and our current Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews for the Josephians. These stars have gone that extra bit and crowned themselves with glory to represent our great nation in cricket. Congratulations to all.

There are hordes of other talented cricketers who represented their Alma Mater over the years, but never made it to the national team due to numerous reasons. Talent was never in question for these players, but it was a question of timing – after all, only eleven can play in a team. Space does not permit me to name these players as this article is dedicated to a superstar who sadly passed away last month. Anton Perera played for St. Peter’s College from 1957-1960, both years included.

Anton Perera was a household name in the late fifties and early sixties. An intensely talented all-round sportsman, Anton broke into the limelight in 1957, as an athlete and cricketer. He was only 15 years old at the time. Anton was a legend at St. Peter’s College. He was one of the most celebrated sports icons who left an indelible mark on the Peterite landscape as a talented athlete, exceptional cricketer who also played rugby until his coach Jackie van Twest advised him not to play as it would hurt his athletics. Anton was also a good Tennis player and I am not quite sure if he represented college, at the Public Schools Championships. His father was a Tennis player of national repute.

Blessed with a strong physique – Anton captained the Under-16 athletics team of his Alma Mater to win the Junior Tarbat Trophy at the All-Island Schools Athletic Championships. He was a Public School champion in the Discus, Javelin and Putt Shot. He also performed well in the 100 metres and did the sprint relays. This was a time the Peterites had a crack athletic team. He captained the Junior Athletics Team in 1957 which went on to win the Junior Tarbat at the Public Schools Championships. Desmond Moraes, Rontjen Perera and Linus Jayawardane (since departed) were the other members of the team.

Some names of Peterite athletes during his time that come to mind are Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Ranjit Weerasena, David Van Dort, Errol de Silva, brothers Andrew & Godfrey Goonetilleke, Rontjen Perera, Neville Salvador, E.L. Fernando, N.B. Wilson, Didacus de Almeida, Roger Wright, Kevin Ruberu, Vinitha Rakajaruna, Elmo Perera, Carlyle Rudolph, Ranjith Alwis, brothers Winston & Stafford Tambimuttu, and a host of others of repute who later joined Ace Athletic Club or CT & FC.

But it was Cricket that Anton was best known. His baptism into the First XI was in 1957, at the age of 15 – under the captaincy of Jayantha Fernando. In the big match, Anton clean bowled opener Claude Perera and then took out two prolific Josephian batsmen Priya Perera and Tissa de Soysa. He had match figures of 3 for 69 in his first big match that was drawn. St. Peter`s were captained by Russel Duckworth in 1958, Brian Seneviratne in 1959, and Premasiri Athukorale in 1960. I cannot remember which year, but Anton caused a sensation at the SPC Vs. Ananda game. He took 8 wickets for 21 and at least six Ananda players were injured. Following year, the Peterites had a rough time at Campbell Place when they met Ananda. I believe Police were at hand to ensure no brawls took place. During this time, he was rated the fastest Schoolboy bowler in Ceylon with Ananda`s Sonny Yatawara coming a close second.

Anton’s opening partners were Maurice Deckker (1960), Desmond Dharmaraja (1958 & 1959) and Anton Paulpillai (1957). Anton best partnered with Maurice Deckker when the Peterites had the most fiery opening bowling attack at the time in school cricket. Cricket at St. Peter`s enjoyed a great period in the 50s and 60s – there was a galaxy of stars who represented the school by the canal. Anton`s team mates who played alongside him are David Muthumani, Nihal Wijesena, Darrel De Silva, Jayantha Fernando, Brian Seneviratne, Russel Duckworth, Lakshman Serasinghe, Premasiri Athukorale, Christy Marthalingam, Anton Paulpillai, Randy Layman, Adiel Anghie, Desmond Dharmaraja, Elmo Gunasekara, Richard Alles, Mark de Silva, Richard Heyn, Tyrone Le Mercier, Maurice Deckker, and Didacus de Almeida.


This 2004 photo shows four celebrated Peterite cricketers of yesteryear – Richard Alles, David Heyn, Travice Fernando and Anton Perera.

Anton played Club Cricket briefly for SSC whilst in school and would have certainly played for All-Ceylon had he not left for California in 1962 at the age of 20. He lived in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California with his wife Marlene and their three children. He was involved in developing and promoting cricket in Southern California in the sixties and played locally with Dr. Tony Don Michael (another Peterite), Thomian Dr. M.L. Idroos (STC), Dr. C. Balakrishnan (Jaffna Hindu), and a host of other players who made California their home in the post-sixties.

Anton passed away in a Los Angeles Hospital on February 20th, from medical complications. He is survived by his beloved wife of 51 years – Marlene, son Yohan (Joey) and two daughters Sharlene and Sheryl and eight grandchildren. A memorial service for the repose of his soul was held on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at St. Bernadine’s Church in Woodland Hills, California. The service, from all accounts was a celebration of the life and times of a great sportsman – Anton Perera!

A quote from Abraham Lincoln: "And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, It’s the life in your years." In this context, Anton enjoyed a lot of life in his years. He was a good family man, an exceptional human being, loyal to his multitude of friends and a very good Catholic to his dying days.

May his Soul Rest in Peace!

By Upali Obeyesekere – Old Peterite living in Toronto, Canada

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