Lasitha Gunaratne and Namal Rajapakse (inset)
Yoshitha Rajapakse and Dr. Maiya Gunasekera
2009 has all thequalifications to be an annus horribilis.
After all, it's the year in which the government was
forced into appointing a two-man interim committee to
run the affairs of the game, thereby terminating a
tradition as old as the game here. On the face of it at
least, this government intervention represents a
shameful indictment on the game's system of governance
by elected officials, specifically the one preceding the
2007/08 elected committee of DIG Nimal Lewke, of course,
wasn't by any means angelic so as to render it
infallible. Indeed, it had been the butt of quite some
virulent criticism, arising chiefly from suspicions that
its president had been partial to his son in the
national captaincy stakes. As well, there wasn't always
unanimity among its own ex-co over extravagant spending.
whether rugby deserved to be penalised with the
imposition of an IC for the sins of omission and
commission of the DIG Lewke regime is questionable.
Nothing nearly resembling the horrendous allegations
(not excluding fraud and violation of the country's
laws) that forced an interim committee on cricket was
levelled against the 2008 elected rugby administrators.
If the elected cricket officials were accused of
grievous crimes, the crimes of their rugby counterparts,
by comparison, were petty.
that as it may, the setting up of an IC clearly was
intended to cleanse the elected committee's "mess,'' but
nothing of the sort has happened. Eight months into the
job and the IC management has only gone to further
compound rugby's problems. Much of its time has been
spent on rewriting the constitution, touted as a
pre-requisite to ensure fairer administration under an
elected system. No sooner the constitution was amended
and made legal; it was solemnly promised that the
'deferred' 2009 AGM would be held.
AGM remains in limbo
two months ago, amendments to the constitution were
proposed - and accepted at a Special General Meeting (SGM),
but the vowed AGM remains in limbo. Clubs, provincial
unions, indeed the rugby family, are entitled to feel
they're being taken for a ride by an IC determined to
not let go of the reins. "The rewriting of the
constitution, the amendments, the SGMs, they are all
ruses so that three individuals (Chairman Dr. Maiya
Gunasekera, Secretary Kiran Atapattu and CEO Lasitha
Gunaratne) can continue to control rugby,'' says a past
SLRFU official. "If you ask me if all this suggests
permanent ICs for rugby, then, I would have to say we're
heading in that direction."
permanent ICs might, with time, translate to dictatorial
rule, however is least of rugby fears at this point in
time. Let's face it; a bit of dictatorship, providing it
instills greater discipline and fair-play into the
sport's management, isn't such a bad thing, especially
with rugby long blighted by the nasty rivalry born of
club politics. The problem, however, is that the IRB
doesn't recognise any body other than one that is
democratically elected. And the IC isn't. Two IRB
officials flew out here in March to specifically spell
out that requirement to the Sport Ministry and IC
officials. But all that was water down a duck's back.
upshots: (1) IRB withdrew its Rs.14M. annual
disbursement for development of Sri Lanka rugby; some 25
development officers stationed countrywide are without
jobs and rural development lie abandoned. (2) the ARFU,
the IRB's Asian arm, deny official status to the 2009
Singer/SriLankan Airlines International Sevens, a status
the Kandy tournament enjoyed from 2004-2007. The 10-year
tournament has been abandoned this year and Rs.7M. IRB
funding for the event and hence a contribution to the
national coffers is lost.
Job for the son
all that is not bad enough, the IC goes and surrenders
Sri Lanka rugby's right to choose its own national
captain. It will be recalled that the SLRFU selectors
named one player to lead the country's Asian Five
Nations campaign, but the Sport Ministry's panel of
National Selectors appointed another, all because the
father of the latter wanted the job for his son. What
this says is that rugby selectors no longer have the
final say on who is worthy or unworthy of a national
jersey- if a father or mother thinks his/her son
deserves to be captain/player, the wish will be granted.
should there be more than one claim then the issue is
apparently decided in favour of the claimant closest to
the powers that be, as illustrated by the appointment of
Pavithra Fernando over Dilanka Wijesuriya, the
selectors' choice. Fernando's father is the head of the
powerful National Olympic Council, a job that in the
world of influence is a mile ahead of the chicken-farmer
that Dilanka's papa is. In rugby's long history never
has a year managed the dubious distinction of having
outsiders decide who its national captain should be -
and, for heaven's sake, kowtowing IC officials take the
outsiders' decision without a whimper. Opposing, though,
might mean losing their jobs with the IC, and the sort
of gentleman-administrator, who would stand up in
defense of the rugby union's long-held preserve, risking
their seats of power, is, well, rare as oasis in the
for this endless administrative devilry, 2009 is not a
year which one would want to look back with undiluted
pleasure. Right? Not quite. Two weeks ago, 2009 would've
unanimously been voted rugby's worst annus horribilis.
Enter Sri Lanka Navy
then a bunch of doughty, but obscure, men from the Sri
Lanka Navy comes along and dramatically and
enthrallingly turns our rugby world inside out. Not
since S. Sivenderan's policemen, as a 'B' division team,
stormed into the 1967 Clifford Cup final, has any rugby
season thrown up shocks as staggering as Navy did over
the past two weeks. And suddenly, the yearlong misdeeds
of the IC don't seem to matter any more.
fortnight ago, the Welisera "upstarts'' stunned the
second-best club in the country, 18/3, ending CR& FC's
long-held yearning for championship honours. Having
broken the dreams of the Colombo 7 club, the Navy then
goes and ends champions
SC's 60-match winning streak, spread over four seasons.
And suddenly the champion club's chances of an eighth
straight league title don't look so sure - an
uncertainty they've not known for much of the past
decade and half. Then, by the halfway stage of the
season, the league trophy had as good as been locked
away in the Nittwela cupboard - and the keys thrown away
into the Mahaweli waters. That had been the prospect for
the 2009 season too. But with the defeat at the hands of
Navy, the champions will now have to win one of their
two remaining league games - v. The Army and the CR - to
retain the title.
previous seasons accomplishing that task was a given,
but this time round it's no dead-certainty. Army and the
CR, for one thing, are no pushovers. But more
importantly, the champion side faces a test it has never
been subjected to since 2005 - how it will cope in
defeat's hangover. The heart might wish that the 2009
will serve up a different league champion, but the head
says, the champion of the past seven years will win it
for the eighth time. Champion sides aren't disintegrated
by one loss. But Navy's awesome achievements in the
league make the knockout title less certain for the
champion club. After all, you can't disregard the Navy
as a serious contender for the K/O title, given that
they've overcome Kandy SC and the CR. So every prospect
of the coming knockout pleases- so unlike the many K/Os
since the early 1990s, which basically turned out to be
ceremonial occasions for handing the silverware to
The sameness took away the crowds. The most meaningful
impact of the Navy's giant-killing deeds, one hopes,
would be the return to the spectator stands of rugby's
missing legion. If that possibility eventuates, then,
2009 will be recalled by Navy's role in reigniting the
flames of spectator interest, reduced to dying embers by
the dominance of a single club for far too long. And to
think that the team that made the transformation had
been absent from competitive rugby for more than a few
seasons, and their entry this season into the 'A'
division had not been without objections. So, it's quite
an extraordinary achievement by any measure.
Critics, of course, will claim Navy's glory would not
have been possible but for their unethical methods of
recruitment. It is no secret that a majority of its
players are civilians, not from its uniformed ranks, as
had been the case from way-back-when. "I'm told that
just two-three players are genuine navel men - the
others are a collection of players from other clubs,
mostly from the Havelocks,'' says an official, speaking
anonymously, "you can accuse them of stealing others'
talents, but not many clubs can claim to be lilywhite on
that score either.''
the Navy has been playing pirate on other clubs' players
during the season, however, has some legitimacy, as
other clubs are taboo to do the same. But illegal it is
not: all service teams are allowed mid-season
recruitment. That it was a concession allowed in days of
yore when services chose their teams from among their
own personnel is another matter - or to be more precise,
is an anomaly that ought to have been rectified when the
play-for-pay scheme came in operation in the early 90s.
The part played by the presence of President's two sons
in the Navy team (the younger as captain) in influencing
recruitment cannot be over emphasised. The advantages
are manifold for the joining players. So, it's much a
case of "you call and I'll come'', as the overnight
recruitment CR fly-half Dev Ananda illustrates: one week
he was in CR's red jersey, the next, in white and
navy-blue top. It is an unfair practice, but not beyond
rectifying - provided the IC doesn't shows partiality to
the Navy, something the IC didn't do when more than one
complaint of on-field misconduct by Navy was put before
the IC. The complaints were simply ignored. The wondrous
deeds of Navy over the past two weeks show they can
pretty well look after themselves - without any favours
from the IC.
If you have class, you adjust
won the first ODI beating Pakistan fairly comfortably in
the end. All was not well with our lads in the early
session of this game. Admittedly the Dambulla strip is
slow and shot making is not easy. Yet at this level top
players are expected to adjust. Given the nature of the
strip the Sri Lankan total looked formidable. Two thirty
plus takes some getting. Yet it was once again left to
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela to steady the innings. This
bodes well for our cricket. I have consistently
maintained that the contributions the seniors make will
affect the outcome of the game. This was yet another
disastrous start, steadying in the middle and a canter
in the death overs brings a rush of adrenaline to the
stands and viewers on TV. Sri Lanka provided all this
and added mirth was when Murali weighed in with a match
winning contribution. Murali is a good striker of a long
ball if he keeps his head steady. He did this time to
the chagrin of the Pakistanis. Angelo Mathews is on a
good run and balanced Sri lankan budget with his
intelligent batting. He is turning out to be a worthy
replacement for Chaminda Vaas.
failed to get the momentum going and contributions by
the middle order consisting of Afridi et al was not good
enough to attack
two thirty. As usual the bowling of the local lads were up to
scratch. Thilina, Sanath and Murali bowled well to keep
the rate down and others picked up a few to romp home.
has lost two of her front rung bowlers in Test cricket
in the last two weeks. This time it was Murali who
announced that his Test against the Windies would be his
last. Close after Chaminda's announcement, Murali's
retirement from Test cricket should ring alarm bells.
Yet, I believe we have talent to continue. It will give
younger players an opportunity to play a few Tests in
Muralis shadow, pick his brains and hone their skills.
stated on an earlier article, the senior players now opt
to play in the limited versions of the game as they get
longer in the tooth. The physical demands though
gruelling are not drawn out enabling them to be
competitive. This I believe is good for the game.
Emerging players get an opportunity to play alongside
them with more regularity now.
its a little premature to doff our hat to Murali, I
sincerely hope his dodgy knee holds out till he
completes the Tests against the Windies. He deserves it.
Meanwhile I wish the Sri Lankans the best for the one
The illustrious Wijekoons from Matale
By Lal Gunesekera
Wijekoon's are an illustrious family hailing from Matale.
They are synonymous with Hockey. Six Members of this
family (Four Brothers and two sisters) represented Sri
lanka, while two others played for the Matale District
teams at National Championships. This could well be a
world record and the Guinness Book of World Records
could take this unique achievement of this family into
consideration and honour them accordingly.
Herbert is the Eldest in the Wijekoon family of five
bothers and three sisters. Educated at
College, Matale and introduced to the sport by the late
George Mant, Herbert, excelled not only in Hockey, but
also in Cricket, Athletics and Soccer in school and had
the distinction of captaining the teams in all four
sports. It was at Hockey that Herbert made a name for
himself and was an automatic choice for Sri Lanka teams
from 1951 to 1962. It was under his leadership that
Matale won the inaugural Nationals in 1957 at Edward
Park. He coached his alma mater from 1955 to 1958 and
produced 19 national players.
late Dauglas and Chandra also played for Sri Lanka, but
it was Ranjith, who proved to be a legend. He first
played for his country as a schoolboy against an Indian
team and was a wizard with the hockey stick. He
represented the Country at two Asian Games and even
picked to play for the Asian teams in 1966 and 1970.
Ranjith's career ended in 1974 after he led the national
side to beat Mysore. His wife Pushpa and two daughters (Neluka
and Nadira) too represented Sri Lanka and toured India
and Singapore. Herbert's son, Major (RTD) Sagith,
captained Sri Lanka Schools and played for Defence
Services at the nationals, and also captained the
Defence Services cricket team too. Sujatha and Manel too
played for Sri Lanka and are old Girls of BMS College in
Matale. The former played for the country from 1963 to
1975. Manel first represented
at Netball in 1963 at the inaugural World Championship
in England and was selected for the inaugural Asian
Women's Hockey Championship in India in 1968. In the
following year (1969), both Manel and Sujatha, played
for Sri Lanka in a three Test series against England.
Manel was married to the late General Vijay Wimalaratne,
and old Royalist, who boxed for his school, while
playing Hockey for the Army and Defence Services.
Sujatha's Husband, Randiligama, was an outstanding
Basketball player for Army, Defence Services and
late Richard's daughter, Sandiya, too represented Sri
Lanka for a period of five years against
Pakistan, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Herbert's Grand daughter, Gimhani Alahakoon, who is a
student of Musaeus College, represented the school
Under-12 team that toured Malaysia for the Pesta Cup,
and Hopes that one day, she too will go on to represent
Sri Lanka in Hockey.
Chandra's two sons (Asanga and Harsha) represented Sri
Lanka and toured India for the Nehru Memorial
Championship. They also played for Matale and Mercantile
at the nationals.
Schumacher begins F1 preparations
Michael Schumacher began preparations for his return to
Formula 1 by driving a 2007 Ferrari at the team's
Mugello test track on Friday.
seven-time world champion, 40, is to stand in for Felipe
Massa, who suffered a fractured skull in an accident at
the Hungarian Grand Prix.
test ban means Schumacher cannot drive one of this
It was a Kandy vs Kandy affair
By Hafiz Marikar
Saturday July 25, at Welisara both Kandy SC and Navy SC
packed with Kandy school products, gave a good display
of rugby, where the Navy SC after 19 long years had to
ward off a serious challenge from Kandy SC before
earning a wafer thin 12-11 victory.
this win, the entire Welisara turned to somersault on
its axis. Even though this match had no bearing on the
league plum, which the defending champions are sure to
win for the 9th time in a row. But the Champions let
down their supporters, with a disappointing display.
the first rime the defending champions were kept on
their toes by a fighting Navy side which had nearly 13
of Kandy school products on the field at play, so that
is why one can call this game, Kandy beats Kandy.
team was packed with Kandy names, the front row was made
out of Kandy products like P. Manchanayake, A.
Gunasekara (Kingswood), S. Suwarnatilake (St.Anthony's),
second row S. Malevena (Vidyartha), T.H. Hassan
(Wesley), Third row skipper Y. Rajapaksa (St.Thomas') S.
Deen (Trinity), N. Rajapaksa (St.Thomas'), Scrum Half S.
Puspakumra (Vidyartha/Trinity), Fly Half S. Lashantha
(Wesley), Centers N. Ibrahim (Kingswood), D. Nandaruwan
(St. Sylvester's), wingers E. Weerakody (Kingswood)), C.
Dissanayake (Kingswood), Fullback N.Hettiarchchi (Dharmaraja).
The players who substituted H Hassan (Royal), D.
Pullikuttiarachchi (St Anthony's), M. Silva ( Ratnapura
Central), Dev Anand (Kingswood) and the 12 points came
off the boots of N. Hettiarchchi and Dev Anand.
Rs. 1 lakh in prize money at Janashakthi Full Option
Lotus Smart Drivers Rally
prestigious Janashakthi Full Option Lotus Smart Drivers
Rally which is also the 75th anniversary rally of the
Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC) will kick off on the
night of Friday 14, August at the Galle Face Hotel, with
Janashakthi Full Option as Principal Sponsor.
Recognised by the Governing Body of Motor Sports - Sri
Lanka Automobile Sports - as a National Event, this
Rally is the oldest running rally in Sri Lanka. It
provides an excellent opportunity for any motorist who
wishes to take part in a motor sports competition
without needing any special preparation of his vehicle,
nor needing any special driving skills. Co-sponsors of
this event are the Galle Face Hotel and MRF Car Care.
President of the Ceylon Motor Sports Club Niroshan
Pereira said, "Primarily organised as a 'time and
distance' rally, it is geared towards people who would
want to use their daily transport type vehicle for the
event. This is a motor rally for the average motorist
with a chance to win Rs. 100,000.00 in prize money".
CMSC, which is currently Sri Lanka's oldest motoring
club, possesses a wealth of experience in organising
events such as this Rally. Competitors are assured of a
well organised rally which is, above all, a fun event to
participate in. The officials who plot such rallies are
always mindful of the fact that these rallies are run on
public roads. Plotting is hence done so that competitors
need not break speed limits or disobey any road rules",
Managing Director Janashakthi Insurance Prakash
Schaffter said, "As a trail blazer in
insurance industry with Janashakthi Full Option, we are
proud and honoured to partner with the Ceylon Motor
Sports Club in its prestigious 75th Anniversary Rally
this year. In fact we partnered with the CMSC in last
year's rally which was a resounding success. This is an
event which has generated a great deal of enthusiasm
amongst Sri Lankans in all parts of the country. While
testing one's ability to perform under pressure, it also
enhances the pleasure of, and encourages, good
Otters diamond tennis c'ships.
Otters Diamond Jubilee Junior Novices Tennis
Championship kicks off on the club's courts on August
event is open to players between under-8 and under-16.
The under-8, under-10 and under 12 segments will feature
in only the Singles. The under-14 and under-16 players
will also have a Doubles event in addition to the
Singles, according to Tournament Secretary, Ganendran
Subramaniam. His father, K Subramaniam, will be the
Entries close on August 6.