It was his routine evening schedule that Cuban-born boxing coach of the national team,BI Fernandez,followed on Tuesday. He finished his evening walk within the premises of the National Institute of Sport in Patiala and dined at the Dhyan Chand hostel mess.
Fernandez,56,had no inkling that it would turn out to be a special evening. A couple of hours before Fernandez commenced his brisk walk,the Dronacharya Awards committee had recommended Fernandez,among the six,to receive the countrys most prestigious award for coaches.
When informed about his name being included in the elite group,Fernandez,whose earliest stint as a coach in India dates back to 1990,was at a loss for words.
I did not expect it as I thought that the award was given only to Indians. This is the best gift for me. I first came to India 22 years ago. It has been a long journey but it has been rewarding, Fernandez told The Indian Express.
Fernandez was a national champion in 1974. He started coaching at the National Sports Institute at Santa Clara,Cuba,in the late 70s before joining the national team in 1978.
I used to read a lot about India and when in 1990 I got the opportunity to train Indian boxers I jumped at it. Coming to India was not a culture shock. I had some Indian friends and that helped. We used to train in halls that were not air-conditioned and during hectic sessions boxer would complain about the humid conditions. It was a tough phase, Fernandez added.
All his hardwork paid off when Vijender Singh won Indias first medal in boxing at the Olympics,a bronze at Beijing. Fernandez has had to make supreme sacrifices.
My daughter,Sochye,got married in early June but I could not attend as the Indian boxers were preparing for London, Fernandez said.
He now plans to visit home in September to meet is daughter before she relocates to Mexico in October.
She loves watching Hindi movies and wants me to take back CDs of the latest Hindi flicks. At the moment I need to be around because the boys need me. They need to get back to their routine after the London Games.
The boxers either call him Cuban or Fernandez. I cherish both the names. I know some Hindi,which I use to instruct some of the boxers but let me tell you that only they can understand what I am trying to say.
The Dronacharya awardees: Yashvir Singh (wrestling),B I Fernandez (boxing),Virender Poonia(athletics) ,Sunil Davas (kabbadi),Dr Satyapal (parathletics) and Harendra Singh (hockey).
SAI forwarded Fernandez name
Former boxer Raj Kumar Sangwan,a member of the dronacharya award committee said that boxing coach BI Fernandez was selected as a special consideration.
Fernandez has been working with Indian boxing for more than two decades and we felt that he deserved the award. We sent his name to the sports ministry and they cleared his name. His name has been selected on the basis of special consideration and he is the first foreign coach to get the award. SAI forwarded the list to us and then we took the decision to nominate Fernandez, Sangwan said.