Two months ago, when India’s former foreign boxing coach BI Fernandez returned from Houston, Texas, in USA, where his wife and daughter live, the Cuban coach was returning to India after more than two months.
Fernandez, who first came to India in 1990 to train the Indian boxing team and coached the team for more than 24 years and has been training the boxers at Punjab Institute of Sports since 2016.
While the training was suspended at PIS after an advisory issued due to coronavirus, 8,400 deaths have occurred in the USA including 105 deaths due to the virus outbreak in Texas till last week, has made the 65-year-old Cuban coach worried about his family members and other citizens.
“In December last year, I had gone to spend time with my family staying in USA and I returned on February 4 to resume my role as coach at Punjab Institute of Sports, Mohali. My daughter lives in Houston, Texas and the officials there have told the malls to lessen hours of operation due to the recent coronavirus outbreak. My daughter works in a car showroom and showroom timings too have been changed,” shared the coach, who remains the only foreign coach to be awarded the prestigious Dronacharya award by the Indian government.
He added: “My family told me that all bars and clubs have been told to close after deaths due to the virus outbreak in Texas. I am worried but I also want to resume training for my boxers at PIS once the restrictions are lifted, in Mohali.”
Fernandez, who originally hails from Santa Clara in Cuba, worked as an assistant coach with the Cuban team before joining the Indian boxing team as coach in 1990. Over the years, the Cuban coach trained the likes of 1998 Asian Games champion Dingko Singh, 2006 CWG champion Akhil Kumar, 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Vijender Singh apart from also working as coach with the Indian women’s team. The last three and half years have seen him coach the young trainees at PIS, Mohali.
While the Tricity also sees the shutting of malls and other preventive measures in force since last week to stop the coronavirus outbreak, Fernandez too has been following the precautions at his Sector 63 residence in Chandigarh apart from following his habit of saying Namaste, a thing which he has also taught his four-year-old grand-daughter in Texas.
“I have lived in India for long and I am more Indian than some of my boxers (laughs). But we have been following the precautions before the PIS closed for training this Monday. Prior to that, we would tell the boxers to use hand sanitizers and also told them to lessen body contact. As for hand shake, I have lived here for long that greeting with folded hands and saying namaste has become my habit. I have also taught my grand-daughter to say namaste instead of a handshake as it’s safer. Earlier I used to eat outside, but now I am cooking Indian dishes at home. I am now expert in making rajma and curry and the whole day is spent at home. My family was initially worried about me returning to India but I told them that Chandigarh too is safe as any,” adds the coach.
While Fernandez’s native country Cuba saw its first coronavirus cases in the form of three Italian tourists coming to Havana in early March, the country has seen a spike in number of cases with five deaths and more than 230 cases in the last 20 days.
“Back home in Cuba, we have one of the best health systems in the world and Cuba and Cuban doctors are being sent to other countries too in this situation. While there has been a rise in number of cases recently, the government is taking all the precautions. I keep talking with my friends in Cuba and they also call me to enquire about my health,” says Fernandez.
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