The Sunday Leader

Kandy – Cradle Of Lankan Football

By Hafiz Marikar

There are more football clubs in Kandy than in any other district. From the early years of barefoot competition to the present age of sophisticated football Kandy District has played a vital role in the growth of the sport.
Taking a look back into Kandy District football, the Association was formed in 1925  —  84 years ago.  Kandy, the hill capital of Sri Lanka, has produced some of the top players. In  the past football was the game and  Bogambara Stadium was freely available for the sport. Today the ground is busy catering for all sports accept hard ball cricket, and  it is difficult to get a booking, and also the ground and the pavilion fee is much higher.  As a result most of the clubs are  finding it difficult to play.  The ground fee is sky high, where they have to pay Rs. 289,000.00 for the  Kandy Association Football League tournament matches, where 14 teams each in A & B will kick off.
In the good old days  Kandy  conducted over 150 matches in the domestic tournaments, for Rev Fr. Robert M Perera Cup, Winchester Cup, Ismail Cup, George E de Silva Cup competitions.  This was nearly 75 years ago, when the neighboring districts too played in the Kandy District tournaments — at that time they had Bogambara only for football.
During the Second World War, the British units were stationed in Kandy, with the one time Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in South  East Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten having his headquarters in the hill capital.  Some of the first class British footballers displayed their versatility representing the Kingsown and Queensown regiments, the Royal Artillery and also the East African Rifles, which had quite a few Negro stars in the side.
In the Early 1930s, some of the leading  clubs were Old Antonians  SC, Old Kingswoodians SC, Police SC, YMCA, Green Field SC, Rovers SC,  Kandy YMMA, and Red Stars SC.  Then in the early 1940’s, the Amateur Football League was formed with M.S. Jainudeen as the kingpin.  It subsequently changed its name to Kandy District Football Association, and still  later, to Kandy District Football League.  It served football in Matale, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Kurunegala and Kegalle, and as the years rolled by, these towns formed their own leagues.
The Kandy Football Referees Association was formed in the late 1940’s with pioneers like the late Philip Buultjens, Kingsley Abeyasinghe, R. Jaymon, S.A C. Mohideen and Tom Ossen.  A.J.M. Yusoof, M.E. Marikar and Tom Ossen later served as FIFA panel referees.  Col. V.H.L. Anthonisz, A.C.L. Ratwatte, E.L.Senanayake, late Dr.C.D.L. Fernando, Bodhi Liyanage as presidents of the Kandy Association Football League, contributed immensely towards football in the hills.   People like  M.S. Jainudeen, L. Wijeratne, W.B. Abeyasinghe, M. Mohamed M. Nadaraja and this writer as secretaries have kept the game as a strong base of the common man’s sport.
Kandy has produced national caps of fine grain.  Some of the early caps were Tom Ossen who was the first to captain the country from Kandy, T.S. Jaymon, Oscar Wijetunga and R. Rasiah represented the country.  Still later Mahinda Aluwihare, Ratnapala Aluvihare, Tuan Amidon, D.H. Vithanage,  M. Thair,  S. Nelson sported   the national jersey with distinction. Also there were players like  H.B. Ekanayake,  A.J.M. Yusuf,  M.E. Marikar,  Malcom Marshal,  Philp Buultjens,  D. Kalu Sirisena,  M.S. Shabdeen,  Abdul Razak, M. Fuard,  and Rukman de Silva.
Ratnapala and Mahinda Aluvihare, being brothers, equaled the feat of Peter Ranasinghe and Christopher Ranasinghe, who as brothers, first played together in the Senior National Team.  Amongst the galaxy of Kandy footballers, Tom Ossen and Mahinda Aluvihare were the stars.  While Ossen had the longest and most colourful international career from 1947 to 1965, Mahinda was a picture of sheer brilliance in the pivotal position, which helped Sri Lanka to many an international victory.
Football as a national sport has had a wide acceptance amongst people – particularly the common masses and the middle class of our society.   From its humble beginnings almost a 150 years ago, it has come to stay as the most popular  mass sport, with 46 leagues and over 1000 clubs spread through the length and breadth of the our land, offering the youth a healthy, competitive recreation.
What football needs today is  more and more grounds as the game has spread but there are no proper grounds except in Colombo, Negombo,  Kalutara, Matara, Badulla,  Kurunegala and the forces.  If the government gives the backing that it gives for cricket, football will flourish.

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