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Tribute to Didacus de Almeida

Posted on 18 January 2017 by admin

SPC LOGO IVCourtesy: Sunday Times

The Tri-Nations Rugby Tournament

It has been almost 35 years since Sri Lanka came close to winning the Asiad. At this moment it is only fitting to bring to mind the only complete rugby player produced by Sri Lanka. No one can equal that record to-date. The great coach Archibald Perera moulded him at school but it was his inherent talent that finally prevailed.

Didacus de Almeida, a name synonymous with Rugby. Why was he a complete player? He had a head for the game and the speed of a Cheetah, could collect the ball clean under pressure and kick from any angle, frequently executing beautiful drop goals. His crunching tackles were feared by all players. He was a robust player who always played clean rugby.

What a game that was, the Asiad Final in 1974, when Sri Lanka were runners-up in the final to Japan. There were no IPLs, no dollar gains, only sheer commitment to the game and the love for the country. At the age of 18, right from school, Dida played for Sri Lanka continuously for over decade, which was a record. He was an inspiration to young players – A hero in their eyes!

The class of rugby dished out by Dida was entertaining; he never let the side down. With no quarter neither asked nor given, he sold the dummy on numerous occasions, frequently baffling the opponents and scored many tries for the Mecca of Rugby, his club, CR & FC.
We were in awe watching this player of class.

The London Welsh Team played in Sri Lanka with great rugby legends such as John Dawes, Gareth Davies and the mercurial J.P.R. Williams to name a few. Dida was the only player to score. He received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 50,000 people. At the after party at the residence of the British High Commissioner that evening, he was the Toast.

Such was the player he was but never lost his head. He was a generous man to poor people. Dida married glamorous Minoli Perera from Milepost Avenue, Colombo 3 – the love of his life. She hails from an illustrious rugby playing family. Her father, Manning, played for CR & FC, his brother, Godwin, was the first Ceylonese to captain Ceylon during the British Era and his sister, the mother of the late C.V. Gunarathne, was rumoured to say that the British never tolerated locals in the clubhouse but that she was the only privy lady clad in a saree to cheer Ceylon, while sitting in the clubhouse, whom they respected.

Dida is blessed with a son and daughter. The son unfortunately could not follow his father’s passion due to the war and was sent to London to pursue his education after playing for his school Royal College. His daughter was an athlete of repute, possessing the same speed and style of her father and was a renowned sportswoman at Ladies College.

I am here from London to watch rugby. My sincere wish is that the Sri Lankan team plays hard, plays clean and does justice to greats like the late Dida.

Good luck boys – keep the flag on high especially when the world is not looking kindly towards Sri Lanka.

“Only Sports can level any Mindset “. Dida you must be watching the Rugby.

Sweet prince may you sleep in peace.

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