Thiri Rampath : always remembered

Undoubtedly one of the natural talents the game of soccer had seen in South Africa, the Late Thiri Rampath was indeed the perfect player, who possessed a natural ability second to none. On Sunday, at the Aryan Hall in Raisethorpe, his family and friends celebrated his life on the occasion of his death, exactly ten years ago on 8 May 2006.
Born in 1930 in Pietermaritzburg, Rampath attended the St Paul’s Primary and Woodlands High schools. After matriculating, he graduated as a teacher. He eventually became one of the most popular and foremost School Principals that this city had produced. Rampath was systematic and meticulous about everything he did. His keen insight into situations and his tireless work made him a Principal of exceptional calibre. He was just, understanding, tactful, tolerant and patient, in essence a gentleman of the highest order.
However, it is Rampath’s passion for soccer and his undeniable talent that he will be remembered for. In 1946, he captained the Midlands juvenile team against Durban. A former captain of the famous Daffodils Football Club, Rampath represented both Pietermaritzburg and Natal in a number of senior inter-race matches, including that against the Cape District Football Association.
In 1949,he went on to become an automatic selection for the Northern Natal Indian team which participated in the famed Sam China Trophy tournaments for well over a decade, captaining them for several years. In 1958, Rampath captained the Natal Indian team which beat the Natal Black team 5-1 at Curries Fountain in Durban to win the Singh’s Cup.
Those were the halcyon days of Indian soccer and the biennial Sam China tournaments, played at various centres around the country, attracted an exceptionally large following. 1959 proved to be the highlight of Rampath’s playing days for Northern Natal when he led them to their first ever Sam China Championship victory, also, at Currie’s Fountain.
Further representative honours followed with regular representation for, and captaincy of, the Natal Indians in inter-race matches and the South African Indians in the renowned A I Kajee Cup tournaments throughout the 1950’s. His career reached its zenith when he was invited to captain the South African Indian team that was selected for the controversial and aborted tour to India in 1959.
From 1961 to 1963, Rampath played professional soccer for Lincoln City. He will always be remembered for that spectacular goalhe scored for City against Moroka Swallows, just 30 seconds into the game. It was such a fierce shot that the ball tore through the net.
The hallmark of any great player and captain in a team sport is not only his own exceptional skills but also his ability to bring out the greatness of others in the side – such a player was Thiri Rampath. His brand of soccer was a magical blend of imagination and creativity; he was an inspirational competitor who could raise his team to great heights. Such was his charisma that he could turn an ordinary soccer game into an enthralling spectacle; he warmed the hearts of the rank and file supporter and the connoisseur and purist alike.
Unspoiled by the heady success and all the accolades that came his way in a distinguished playing career, he wore the mantle of greatness with dignity, unassuming modesty and genuine humility. One of nature’s gentlemen, both on and off the field, he was the ideal role model for any aspiring young sportsperson …… a fitting tribute to a true South African soccer legend.

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