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Old Fidelian Recollections Of St Faith’s

Published by St Faith's, Cambridge on Friday 8th of September 2023

Paul Svehlik (1954 – 1960) has been in touch with some recollections of his time here and life after St Faith’s. 


I arrived at school in 1954, coming from my home in Nigeria, where my father was in charge of the Bata Shoe company operations. My first home away from home was in Firwood House. The master in charge of hockey was Mike Bayon who started me off stopping and hitting in the long playroom behind Leyspring!


I often remember the early evenings spent running up and down in the old post war Missen Hut, and playing two vs two. Mike Bayon was also responsible for my prowess in tennis after which a Svehlik Cup was named.


After leaving the school, I went on to the Leys and then on to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge from 1966-1969.


I played hockey at Cambridge University earning 3 Blues and captaining the side in 1969. During my last year at university, I gained my first international cap, after playing my first England trial on the 1st XI pitch at the Leys!  That first international was at Lords cricket ground, in front of the main stand.


I made 66 appearances in the England jersey from 1969 to 1975,captaining the side for the first time in 1971 against Ireland.


Mr MacInnes, then headmaster of the school, kindly congratulated me on this event, as did the Guinness book of records in 1978 on being the most capped England hockey international to that date!


I played in many different countries, but my most memorable event began in the late summer of 1972 at the Munich Olympic Games being a member of the Great Britain hockey squad.


In that summer of 1972, our team arrived in Munich some weeks early so that we could acclimatise and have some practice matches on the competition pitches.


During our first such training match against Pakistan, I suffered a cut on my head, which, bleeding profusely, required stitches in the First Aid post. My claim to fame was that I was the first competitor to be treated in the facility as the doctors rapidly pulled off polythene packaging and searched for the various medical appliances and scalpels which had been dumped in the corner of the room.


The British team were billeted in what was to become two bedroom flats after the Games. Eight people to one flat. I slept in a two camp bedded area, later known as the kitchen! About 400 yards away from our accommodation, the 11 man Israeli team was housed.


The whole unpleasant saga of the Israeli hostage crisis has been brought to the screen by Steven Spielberg in his film “Munich”, suffice to say that, on that fated night, I and a few team mates had been visiting the town centre. When we arrived back at the Olympic village, the whole site had been cordoned off, nobody being allowed in or out. In defiance of the terrorists, the I.O.C. ordered competitions to resume after a pause of 36 hours. Cancellation would have badly damaged the whole Olympic Movement.


After retiring from hockey, I became the European Administrator of the Mens Tennis Council, the governing body of men’s professional tennis until 1990, operating from Roland Garros in Paris. I owed my selection for this job after befriending Arthur Ashe in 1975 after his win at Wimbledon!


I had stints afterwards living in Portugal, starting the Estoril Open professional tennis event, and then Milan, setting up the construction of a multi purpose country club near San Siro.


My sporting tale terminated in Lausanne,Switzerland with the International Boxing Association. As the head of the boxers delegation to the Athens Olympic Games of 2004, I completed my experiences in the Olympics from participating in 1972 to administrating in 2004.


I entitled my leaving speech in Lausanne to the British Residents in 2008 at the Olympic museum: “From Munich to Athens: a Tale of two Olympic cities”

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