Dennis de Rosayro a legend in the annals of sports in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 11 February 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

“The name defines the legacy of a Sri Lankan sporting professional who for the better part of six decades, devoted his life to the development of hockey in Sri Lanka as a player, a coach, manager, promoter and more,” opens the dedication to a legend.

On Saturday 13 February the book – ‘Just call me DENNIS’ a retrospective on hockey in Sri Lanka will be launched at the BRC, Havelock Park, Colombo 05, hosted by the Mercantile Hockey Association.

The book is a chronicle of Dennis’s journey through the years; recording triumphs, the pitfalls, the challenges he encountered along the way and the many individuals who helped him overcome them. It also features Dennis’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s private sector vis-à-vis his alignment to the Mercantile Hockey Association (MHA) and many other sporting bodies in Sri Lanka which have enabled him to foster intimate bonds between people and places along the way.

The book features over a hundred photographs and visual records both in colour and black and monochrome. Just call me Dennis is a must for any aficionado of sport. A fitting tribute to an individual who has enriched the lives of so many in Sri Lanka, by means of his own blood, sweat and tears for his beloved game of hockey.

His passion unnoticed has been a great service to the nation. Rare personalities who put institution before self. An inspiration to the followers of the game and other sportsmen.

The book relates some interesting stories and anecdotes on Sri Lanka hockey going back in time when Sri Lanka rubbed shoulders with world hockey champions.

During Sri Lanka’s historical tour between December 1959 and February 1960 to South and North India, ‘Dhayan Chand’, famously known as the ‘best ever player’, and his equally famed younger brother ‘Roop Singh’, came out of retirement to play for Jhanshi District Hockey Association. Their match against Ceylon drew over 10,000 fans. The Ceylon Captain Mylvaganam magnanimously asked Dennis to toss the coin and play centre half in the match, which ended in a nil-all draw. After the match Dhayan ranked Ceylon about No. 05, in the world after India, Pakistan, East Germany and Holland, along with England and Malaysia and some continental countries.

Dennis, a product of St. Benedict’s College, was the first Hockey Captain of the College in 1954. His prowess of the game was such that as a schoolboy Dennis represented the Ceylon team in 1955 against the Delhi Wanderers, thereafter against the Indian Olympic teams, Pakistan, New Zealand, Great Britain and many State sides from India. In 1956 Dennis represented the Mercantile Hockey Association in its first tour to India. As a 19-year-old he was the youngest member of the team and played all matches on tour under the Captaincy of triple international Hugh Aldons.

Walter Jayasuriya, Chairman Selectors of Sri Lanka Hockey Federation who went as observer quoted: “Needless to say, the tour was of immense benefit to the players. Every player did his best and assimilated new techniques, but three players were outstanding. They were Vivian De Krester, Hugh Aldons and Dennis de Rosayro. They played as well as any Indian. 

Dennis took all this wealth of knowledge gained through this journey and shared it for the betterment of the game and the fraternity with unselfishness.

As quoted by Manjula Wijemanne a Past President of the Mercantile Hockey Association and the Colombo Hockey Association: “Through Dennis I didn’t just learn about the value of commitment, dedication and discipline in everything we do; about the importance of ethics, principles and playing fair, and most importantly, about respect, team work and friendship.” 

This encapsulates what a perfect sportsman strives for. Dennis was instrumental in moulding young mercantile sportsmen to represent their country and created a window to draw young talent into the mercantile fold.

His involvement with the game did not end when he retired as a competitive player, instead he continued to coach and or manage the BRC, MHA, CHA and Sri Lanka teams. Dennis’s goal was to give back to the sport he loved so much. Numerous students have attested that Dennis has shaped their work ethic. His life and work were an example to the youngsters, many of whom would go on to achieve great things. 

As quoted by Past Patron of the Mercantile Hockey Association Hemaka Amarasuriya;

“If ever an individual committed, so much of his life and times to one activity, to one sport, it is Dennis De Rosayro.”

Dennis having represented the country for many years since 1955, also a coach, blew the whistle and was a mentor for many a young sportsman. He was the coach of the Sri Lankan team for the First Asia Cup tournament held in Karachi in 1982, the Chef De Mission of the team at the 5th Men’s Asia Cup held in Malaysia in 1999. Dennis’s invaluable service in the administration of the game served as Vice President Colombo HA, President Mercantile HA and Vice President Sri Lanka Hockey Federation.

Dennis pays tribute in the book to double international of repute Chandra Schaffter as his greatest inspiration in life. Dennis has invested a lifetime to the sport, hoping in return Sri Lanka will one day return to the top tier in the world.