September 22, 2006

Sports coach A. J. DeSouza is no more.

My friends are forcing me to write their obituaries.
One more has joined the Lord. And if saint Peter is still keeping him waiting at the door of heaven, the saint will not have to expend time with a bore.
For A. J. DeSouza could tickle anyone with his endless stream of jokes.
And AJ, as all of us who loved him, called him left us with a big joke. Saying goodbye when we least expected him to give up the ghost.
I am terribly upset because a fortnight ago he called me up to say he was happy that the 'Madras Day' idea was growing in strength. I had promised to join him at his Anna Nagar house for a drink. That wasn't to be.
AJ was one of our biggest supporters. He loved the way we were producing the neigbourhood newspapers and he said so from the bottom of his heart.
This city needs to salute AJ because he was one of the few sports coaches who dedicated his entire life to sport.
He was a top-class athlete in college and much later, with the famed Ken Bosen, a national and celebrated athletics coach to guide him, took to athletics coaching in this city, though he held a full time job.
On the Marina, at Rajarathinam Stadium in Egmore, at the YMCA campus in Nandanam . . . AJ was present wherever athletes trained and competed. And behind him would be scores of youngsters who were driven by a passion to excel.
He loved to nurture sportspeople. The Don Bosco Athletics Club (DBAC) was his baby. He spent days and nights planning, networking, hosting and executing an annual athletics championship in the city exclusively for children. Everything set to Olympian guidelines - be it the chest numbers, the registration procedures, the technical details.
I remember sitting through one of his championships held at the newly-built stadium behind Ripon Buildings. Kiddies were all over the place - on the field and on the tracks and in the galleries. And in a nook sat AJ, looking the ringmaster that he was, as he ran the show the way it should be.
He was straight, blunt and played by the rules. And he was passionate. So, he had few friends in the evening of his life.
In retirement, he authored a slew of books on athletics, some of which the international athletics body recognised. But he was pained that his countrymen had sidelined him.
Whenever we met, he talked of promoting sport and outdoor activity in the neighbourhood playgrounds. And wondered how local newspapers could lend a hand here.
What could be a nice way to remember people like AJ?


Anonymous said...


Well written!

I was fortunate enough to know AJ as one of his athletes in training, some 20 years ago.

AJ, as you note, truly did dedicate his life to youth and their training to be better athletes and better people. I sure benefited by his service tremendously.

The only way I can think of to remember people like AJ is to talk of them - they have done much to change lives - and the more we talk of them, the more we can inspire others who may walk in these same footsteps.

AJ has truly been an admirable part of Chennai - for people like me.

Keshav Das
MCCHS - Class of 1984
Anna Univ. - Class of 1989
Presently - Associate Professor, Univ. of Georgia, USA.

Anonymous said...

I was one of AJ'S athletes at the

Don Bosco Athletic club. Although

we had our differences I would

like to pay tribute to a truly

dedicated coach and administrator.

I personally owe him a great deal

for the wonderful years of

competition and fun in the club,and

the many friends I made there. He

fought a tire-less battle against

age fraud and drugs in sport. He

was a good man and Indian

athletics has lost a great

personality. Rest In Peace AJ you

have run your race well.


Dr Sunil Paulraj

Registrar In Paeditics/ Neonatology

Royal Hospital Belfast

Alan Bennett said...

The world will be a sad and lonely place by the passing of this athletics genius. I remember AJ as a patient and hardworking who was totally dedicated to athletics.

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett said...

I was really sad to hear that AJ had passed away, I remember him as being a very good coach and a man with a good sense of humour from my days as a member of DBAC.
Alan Bennett