Former player, coach and athletic coordinator Albert DaSilva will always be an ‘Amigo’ at GBC
Albert DaSilva, who has walked George Brown’s halls and athletic facilities for close to four decades, surprises me as he wells up with tears, talking about his recent retirement from the college.
“It’s very hard to this day to leave because of the students. You can’t work in a place, (and start as) a student, for 40 odd years and just leave it alone.”
DaSilva started at George Brown as a student athlete in the 1970s, playing volleyball and basketball for the Huskies before transitioning to coaching and coordinating for the athletics department. Though his voice is a little more hoarse, and his steps a bit more cautious, DaSilva still looks the part of student athlete, from his over six-foot frame to the backpack and Huskies baseball cap he wears.
The passion he has for the students and the school, as well as the difficulties of missing out on the day-to-day at the college is evident as DaSilva outlines his plans to stay involved at George Brown.
“Nobody has ever told me that I have a key for life, but I can make my key. I’m not going to do anything out of the ordinary, but I have for myself a life membership at George Brown that’s how much I enjoyed myself there.”
DaSilva is known by many around the college by his nickname, ‘Amigo.’ For the former coach and athletic director, the origins of this name are straightforward. “As I got ‘younger’ I would forget names, so every time you come in my facility and you basically were not following the rules, I would say ‘Amigo’ if I didn’t know your name. And then everywhere I go, a lot of times I get called that back.”
‘Amigo’ might have been borne out of difficulty remembering names, but DaSilva’s nickname reflects his worldview. “We are all amigos and amigas in the world, we should be. That will be my philosophy until I go.”
For DaSilva, something as simple as a greeting is a means of levelling the playing field, regardless of class or success. “If we can say hello to someone that walks in the street or you know somebody, you say hello. It makes a better world.”
DaSilva’s popularity was evident when almost 450 people signed a petition to name the renovated gym at Casa Loma after him.
But while DaSilva appreciated the effort, he felt that the honour of naming the gym was best bestowed on Vince Drake, who coached the Huskies men’s basketball team to three consecutive Ontario College Athletics Association gold medals in the 1970s.
DaSilva retired because he said that he no longer had the energy to give students the support they need. He is enjoying spending more time with his 88 year-old mother, and draws inspiration from her tenacity with some health issues.
“I wish I was 30 years older and she was 30 years younger because I want to remember her like she was, not like how she is now sometimes,” he said. “Certain days her health is not the best. But she still plugs away—she complains less than I do.”