The Sunday Leader

Charting The History Of Assocation Football In Sri Lanka

By  Hafiz Marikar

The British sailors carried the game of football to the lands they conquered with almost national fervor.  It is the British who introduced the game to the Americas, Europe and Asia through their battalions, regiments and brigades.

It is not possible to say exactly when football was introduced to Sri Lanka, because here again, the origins are lost, literally in the mists of time.  However, there is evidence of the game being played in the sprawling sandy stretches of  the Galle Face Green, by bare chested British servicemen stationed in and around Colombo in the 1890’s.

The first ever attempt to organise and conduct Association Football in Ceylon was when the Colombo Association Football League was formed at a meting held in the Bristol Hotel, Colombo on  April 4, 1911.  H. French was elected the president and H.K. Crossskey as the Secretary.  However, as result of World War I in 1914, this body understandably became inactive and ineffective.  After a lapse of nine years, the Colombo Association Football League was revived and re-constituted in 1920 under the amended name, Colombo Football League, with Herbert Dowbiggin as president and H. French as chairman.  The Colombo Football League by now was gaining ground with more new clubs seeking affiliation.  In 1924, Sir John Tarbart, that evergreen sportsman, became its president and contributed immensely to the promotion of the game in the years that followed.

In 1918, the Colombo Mercantile Association Football League was formed and in 1920, the government Services Football Association came into force as the parent body in the state sector, which by then had adopted football as the main sport.  The City Football League received a pavilion named Sir Edwin Hayward Memorial Pavilion in 1929,  which was given a face lift  by Manilal Fernando  this year, and this ground looks a mini football stadium, that is after  80 long years.  City Football League at that time was  known as the “All Blacks” of football, today it is known as “Premadasa Ground”.  Sir John Tarbat  was  its first president and T. Kandiah, the secretary.    The present Secretary is Mohamed Rameez, a famous play grounds master and today he is the second in command in the Play Grounds Department of the Colombo Municipal Council, also not forgetting it President, M. Zainulabdeen of Victory SC fame.

With football taking the top spot, there was a need for a national controlling body for the sport in Sri Lanka at the time.  The game had blossomed by the late 1920’s and few football leagues had sprung up both in Colombo and in the outstations.
Continued Next Week

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