Elvera Britto, doyenne of women’s hockey, no more | Hockey News

Former India captain had donned many hats in illustrious career
BENGALURU: In the late 1950s, when Karnataka was still Mysore and the only driving force to play sport was passion, a sight to behold was girls on rickety bicycles with hockey sticks slung on their backs making a beeline to the Sullivan Police grounds here. Among the girls were the Britto sisters – Priscilla, Elvera, Rita and Mae — often referred to as the first family of Karnataka hockey.
Barring Priscilla, the other three wore the India colours with distinction, but the most celebrated among them was Elvera. The 81-year-old former India captain and proven administrator passed away on Tuesday morning following a heart attack at the city hospital where she was admitted last week.
The demise of the prolific player brought the curtain down on a glorious chapter not just in Karnataka but Indian hockey. The 1960s heralded the golden era of women’s hockey in the state, and one of the leading lights of that era was Elvera.


File Pic: Elvera Britto receiving Arjuna Award
Born on June 15, 1940, Elvera grew up in the leafy bylanes of Lloyd Road in Cooke Town. A student of St Francis Xavier’s Girls School, Elvera turned to hockey at the age of 13 after realising that her prospects in athletics – her first love — as a middle-distance runner were bleak.
A left-half with abundant talent and admirable finesse, Elvera broke into the big league along with her sisters when they represented the erstwhile Mysore at a national-level school tournament in 1960, which the state won on debut.
There was no looking back for Elvera, the Britto sisters or the state hockey team, which won the national crown a record eight times on the trot and triggered tremendous interest among the fans.

While Elvera’s career at the domestic level soared, her stint with the national team was chequered. Although she led the national team, her international career ended prematurely. Her last appearance for India was in 1967 when she played against the visiting Australian team, who stopped by India en route to an international engagement. In 1966, she became the second woman to be bestowed with the Arjuna Award.
On her retirement, Elvera had said, “I would have loved to play on, I still had a lot of hockey left in me. But when you are given a message that you are not needed anymore, you know it is time to walk away with your head held high.”
She returned to the sport as an administrator and soon took over as the president of the then Karnataka State Women’s Hockey Association and was at the helm for eight years. Incidentally, her mother Letitia Britto was one of the founder members of the association.
Known for her vocal personality, she turned things around for women’s hockey in the state, making inter-school competition her prime focus to revive the hockey culture. As an administrator, she was hands-on, and players from the 1990s recall the ‘the smiling Ms Britto arriving before them every day on her moped’. In the period she also served as a national selector, government observer and manager for the Indian team for competitions in Kazakhstan and Beijing in 1998 and 1990.
On India’s women’s hockey team’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics, she had said, “This is what we have waited to see for so long, the spotlight on women’s hockey. Hope the girls never step away from it.”
After stepping down from office, she kept a keen eye on the progress of women’s hockey. After all, that was where her heart lay.

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