Cuban’s revolution: The story of BI Fernandez


bi fernandez, india bi fernandez, vijender singh, mary kom, cuba bi fernandez, india boxing, india fighting coaches, fighting manager bi fernandez, india fighting manager bi fernandez, india boxing, india boxers, fighting news, sports news When his spin comes, a immature child resolutely shakes a bending hands of a aged lady and introduces himself, “I’m Cuban.” (Source: Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Sandip G and Nitin Sharma recount a story of Cuban fighting manager BI Fernandez, of his mixed stints in India,
how he altered a landscape of Indian fighting and how he came to adore a nation and culture, so distant and visitor from his own

From a store of messy weights, sparse slumbering on a square of a Punjab Institute of Sports, emerges a stick-thin generous lad, and joins a organization of other boys evidently taller and broader than him. They are fabricated in a line, like in an public during school, restlessly watchful for their spin to be introduced to an elderly, wan lady who stutters around like a wanderer with moon boots in a blue coupler with INDIA created in confidant behind it and a white top with a Cuban dwindle emblazoned on a mast. When his spin comes, a immature child resolutely shakes a bending hands of a aged lady and introduces himself, “I’m Cuban.” The latter is as many undetermined as amused, before he regains his wit. “Nice to accommodate we Mr Cuban, my names is also Cuban.” The peals of chuckles that occur are mislaid in a inking haze that’s gradually coupler a locus in a misty cloak.

The small boy’s name, it’s informed, is Balvir Kumar, a son of a unfeeling seller in Pathankot. He is 12, nonetheless looks eight, and a trainee during a Pathankot Sports Institute. His voice has a pre-adolescent squeak. He doesn’t know how, or even why, he got this nickname. Even his associate trainees, mostly in their midst or late teens, don’t know his strange name. A former boxer, who is a tutor in a institute, says he is called so since of height, or a miss of it, and his “relatively darker complexion.” Balvir doesn’t care; he wears it proudly, like a badge of honour.

For, he wholly knows a bearing of a nickname on India’s fighting circuit. It’s how a lady whom he shook hands with a while ago is fondly called in a fighting circles of a country. The lady widely credited to have revolutionised Indian boxing, hitherto plunged in primitive coaching methods and manuals and ridden with inviolate perceptions. The lady is BI Fernandez, one with a blazing heart of a insubordinate nonetheless with a some-more assuage proceed to life and coaching.

Over a years, though, a moniker Cuban has spin a bit of a misnomer, Fernandez feels. “Look I’m some-more like an Indian. Almost half my life we have lived here. Mujhko Hindi aata hain,” Fernandez breaks into a now-familiar chuckle. He points out to a series of years he has spent in a country, “24, is it?” Twenty-four years spent in a Hindi heartland of Delhi, Haryana, “the Indian Havana” as he interjects, and Punjab, and he can feel as many Indian as Cuban in his sensibilities. To justify his claim, he can uncover a Dronacharya house he perceived a few years ago, a usually non-Indian to be bestowed with one.

bi fernandez, india bi fernandez, vijender singh, mary kom, cuba bi fernandez, india boxing, india fighting coaches, fighting manager bi fernandez, india fighting manager bi fernandez, india boxing, india boxers, fighting news, sports news BI Fernandez has spent 24 years in India. (Source: Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

It was during his days divided from a country, successive to a two-year anathema that was slapped on him for display gainsay during a judges after Sarita Devi mislaid during a Asian Games, in many ways a hypocritical bout, that he became some-more wakeful of his Indian-ness. He felt a remarkable opening behind home in Santa Clara. “I was a foreigner to my neighbours. Most of my friends were here. we missed them. we missed training with a boys too. They were like my sons or younger brothers. we was training boys there in a supervision academy, nonetheless it was different. Here (in India) we was not usually training, nonetheless always creation skeleton for any boxer,” he sighs.

Even his ambience buds felt visitor to Cuban cuisine. “When we got back, we had no feeling of ambience for Cuban food. we asked my mother to get some chillies and Indian spices from some shops. They would primarily put reduction chillies nonetheless we would ask for more. Of march they finished their possess food yet it and we got special food or dishes with chillies and masala,” he says. And of course, a masala dosas, that he used to tuck in with penchant in Patiala.

So he embraced a initial event that came calling. Soon after his anathema finished this October, he got a call from Punjab Institute of Sports manager Ramanand, and former hockey Olympian Sukhvir Grewal would fast take him on board. “He asked me about my destiny and what I’m meditative next. we replied we do not know yet. Let’s see what happens. He told me Punjab has good talent, nonetheless a small miss of organisation. There were offers from Mauritius and Venezuela. All of them offering good money. But my heart was with India,” he says. Hence, he couldn’t conflict an offer from a Punjab Sports Department to control coaching clinics for immature boxers and coaches. He unhesitantly gave his consent. And after dual years and dual months, was behind to a place his heart beats for. The initial thing he craved when he reached Punjab was sugarcane juice. “In Cuba, roughly each family is compared with sugarcane farming. In my family, my father used to work in a sugarcane factory. Coming here to Punjab again, a initial thing we wanted was sugarcane juice. We went to Patiala final week and we had sugarcane extract many times while on a proceed back,” he says.

If his second entrance — as he calls it, nonetheless he had 3 apart stints — was triggered by a yearning for what he calls his second country, a land totally graphic in enlightenment and outlook, and some 14,000-odd kilometres from Cuba, a initial was wrought in scepticism. Like many first-time foreigners to a country, he came with all a nomenclatural prejudices and fear of a subcontinent. That was behind in 1990, when he was a partner manager of a Cuban inhabitant group that had usually beaten Russia and Greece. “Many people behind home suspicion we was foolish, and we was narrated a common stories of a problems unfamiliar coaches were subjected to in India. People told me India is really distant and dangerous,” he says.

One such knowledge of a Cuban manager who came to India before him roughly stirred second thoughts. He laughs as he narrates a story. “I don’t know how many of it is true, nonetheless this male usually got freaked out. He told a officials that someone threw a cobra into his room. He pronounced he was always saying dual people perplexing to kill him. It had an outcome on his mental approach. So he went to a Cuban embassy and pronounced he wanted to leave. we was also a small frightened then. Then we told myself let’s see how it goes. Whatever, it would be a superb experience,” he admits. In a end, his wayfaring, non-conformist strain reigned over his apprehensions.

bi fernandez, india bi fernandez, vijender singh, mary kom, cuba bi fernandez, india boxing, india fighting coaches, fighting manager bi fernandez, india fighting manager bi fernandez, india boxing, india boxers, fighting news, sports news BI Fernandez says that over a years, he felt India is “very many like Cuba”. (Source: Express print by Jasbir Malhi)

Two-and-a-half decades on, he feels a regard of his friends were amiss. He has a current proof too. “Maybe Cuba is distant and that’s since people worry. Over a years I’ve found India is really many like Cuba,” he asserts.

So when he packaged his bags for Havana in a winter of 2014, he didn’t bid an elaborate farewell to his vast file of friends, nonetheless in India his inscription was flattering many written. For he had a camber that he would lapse earlier than later, nonetheless it looked reduction expected during that indicate in time. So many so that he had kept some Indian banking — `30,000 —with him. Ill-fatedly in a now demonetised `500 notes. “I always hoped to come back. So we kept some Indian banking with me in Cuba and we brought that to use in India. But all of it were `500 bills. So it was of small use. we went to a unfamiliar sell male in Mohali to change $100 nonetheless he refused. Now I’m depending on good friends like Ramanand (PIS coach) for money,” he says.

Now, let’s not burst to conclusions that Fernandez desired India since he disliked Cuba, or maybe a policies of a now over personality Fidel Castro. On a contrary, he dearly desired both countries, hold Castro in complete astonishment and treasures his usually assembly with him. “It’s like music. You conclude opposite forms of music,” he says. The sky blue India coupler and a white top with Cuban stripes demonstrate to this.

“When we go to a fighting hall, we spin a new man,” admits Fernandez. Or he puts on a dancer’s shoes. He clumsily pitter-patters as he walks — and mostly self-mocks a proceed he walks — nonetheless inside a ring, his feet unexpected assume a intonation of a ballroom dancer, pitter-patter in and out, floating in unison with a arms. It’s some-more same to rhythmic salsa than synchronised ballet. The 40-odd students unexpected spin admirers, their eyes transfixed to his feet. Fernandez snaps them out of their reverie, “upar dekh.” Take off a gloves and helmets, transparent a mannequins and punching bags, strew a marks and jerseys for skin-hugging robes, a atmospheric gymnasium will resemble a salsa category in swell rather than a fighting session, relocating to a “Go aage, Go peeche” lilts of their instructor.

“Without dance, fighting is like a dummy,” he says. “Dance is like boxing. It requires lot of coordination and transformation of your body. It is all about footwork and it is a ability to control your action. That depends on a footwork and relocating aage and piche. If your competition is on a right, we pierce that side. If he is on left, we pierce that side. To be good in boxing, we need to benefit control of physique and clarity like a dancer. That’s since we tell boxers to scold their position and viewpoint first,” he explains.

He afterwards points his index finger to a wretchedly idle reproduction of Mohammad Ali’s famous Rumble in a Jungle design and urges them, “You all wish to box like him. But to box like him, one needs to master footwork.” The small Cuban chimes in with Ali’s famous couplet: “Float like a moth and prick like a bee.” Fernandez reciprocates: “Well done, Mr Cuban.”

Fernandez’s biggest grant to Indian boxing, too, is a quicksliver footwork of a boxers of a benefaction and prior generations. “When we initial came, many of them had a lot of power, nonetheless were technically deficient, lots of faults and they got a lot of warnings during bouts. Several of them were unfit too. They punched with power, nonetheless wouldn’t land where it was dictated and hence was a rubbish of energy. The reason is they didn’t have speed. Power yet speed is invalid in boxing. Now their footwork and combinations are better,” he reckons.

Nostalgia unexpected creates him a bagatelle bleary-eyed, even melancholic. He speaks of a fighting gymnasium of NIS Patiala with a blazing pain of a dethroned king. He is during his detailed best when he reminiscences a good ’ol days. “It used to be prohibited and infrequently their feet would be so drizzling in persperate that it would feel like a sponge. Full paani in shoes. The building would get sum soppy infrequently and we had to wait for it to clear. Sometimes, we would sight late in a dusk due to a heat. Sometimes, a boxers were sleepy in six-seven rounds and we had to pull them more. The fighting gymnasium was not that bad nonetheless there were teenager things that we adjusted. Like removing H2O coolers or putting ice in coolers. Those things taught us a lot,” he says.

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But in a end, it contingency have been a wholesomely acceptable experience, generally to see his efforts furnish discernible formula and India creation a quantum jump in universe boxing. He has worked with a best of Indian boxers — from Gurcharan Singh and Devarajan in a 90s to Vijender and Mary Kom in a noughties, production and retooling their perceptions and techniques. “India got medals in World Cup, universe championship, a Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. There could have been improved results, like Vijender could have won a World Championship gold. He was that talented. Vikas (Krishan) could have won a award in London or Gurcharan (Singh) in Sydney. But that’s life,” he philosophises. At 61, he knows regrets are nonetheless an nonessential weight in life.

He can also simulate on a tasty irony of it all. When he landed here in 1990, 5 years after Castro’s second revisit to a nation and 16 years before his last, he competence have felt a small uninvited. He remembers a journal report, snubbing his appointment as a comparison coach, deeming him adequate to sight usually juniors. Even a association was disturbed and they gave him an concerned call. “My pursuit will have a final word,” was his retort. He knew his longevity as manager hinged on a formula his wards produced. India were occasionally studious with unfamiliar coaches. After 24 years, he could legitimately contend he finished formula pronounce for themselves .

But now, ironically, he is here as a youth coach, again with a cloud of doubt over how prolonged he competence stay in a country. If a method of sports doesn’t mind to a ask of a PIS to give him a contract, his second entrance competence final usually a integrate of months. Maybe, it’s a reason he stays overtime during a institute. An hour’s schedule, generally, stretches to 3 or four, and in a finish Fernandez is expended. “I consider training a inhabitant group is easier than this,” he admits, wiping a beads of persperate drizzling from underneath his cap.

It’s not since he is selfish and considers coaching juniors as some kind of an insult. It’s since a methods of coaching are essentially different. “In a inhabitant camps, we do usually training. You do not need to teach. Here we also learn and train. You need to scold here and there. In inhabitant teams, it did not happen. But here a boys see and observe you,” he points out.

He sees a opposite plea in his latest duty, and gets a opposite flog out of it. At his ordering is a garland of youthful youngsters watchful to be shaped. “They are a future, and their mind is like a sponge. They wish to locate everything. They are never tired. They always wish some-more and are some-more receptive. We have to control them and afterwards cover them. It’s a opposite knowledge and I’m now starting to suffer it,” he grins.

More than a technical nuances of a sport, he wants them to gulp a clarity of fearlessness. “Fear is what we wish to mislay from their minds. They fear. And they come from bad backgrounds. They are immature and we can learn them a basis of a diversion and also some basis in life,” he says.

Before circuitous adult a session, he tells Balvir that he wants to take him to Cuba. Balvir’s eyes light up. Peals of grin again warp into a Mohali fog, that by now has roughly wholly devoured a track in a misty cloak. But low inside, Fernandez would be praying that such a day as that when he has to lapse to Cuba for good doesn’t arrive. Or by a geographic sleight, connect a dual countries together.

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