study in mismangement, SLRFU
LANKA rugby can't get any worse than this: a grade on par with the
minnows of Asian rugby. For a nation that finished second to Japan
in 1974, fourth in 1990, behind Japan, Korea and Hong Kong and
fifth-sixth most other times, there can be little honour competing
for the minor rankings in the 19th edition of the Asian Rugby
Championship in Hong Kong this month.
best, Sri Lanka can finish ninth, out of 13 nations - remotely
distant from the officially proclaimed ambitions of not long ago: to
be Asia's third best. Ironically, present officials are now boasting
of bringing home the Bowl, as if that's the most precious piece of
silverware on the prize table. For them, Asia is suddenly a shrunken
continent, made up of India, Pakistan, Macao, Malaysia and China;
Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong Thailand and Singapore are, well, in
a different continent. Self-pacification is a misleading game - it
can even change the map of Asia.
of course will argue that our demotion to the lowest level of Asian
rugby is the way of sport; its' glorious uncertainties, its very
excitement. And cite the many intriguing rise and fall of nations
chronicled in the sport's history. But surprises don't just happen -
there are reasons for them. So with Sri Lanka rugby's slide down the
slippery slope, too, and much of it has to do with poor
administration of the game.
expect the SLRFU to be the pristine administration it once was,
notably during the 1950s and 60s admittedly is difficult. Times have
changed, so have the people and so, values. Practices that were once
considered sacrilegious are now acceptable, which, explains why the
union was historically dragged into the courthouse and a premier
tournament, by legal implications, had to be suspended this season.
Litigation and sport isn't a new phenomenon - more commonplace
really -, but legal recourse was always considered a no-no in rugby
- until a few months ago, that is.
is not to say that rugby always resided in a world of amicable calm.
Its inter-club rivalry is fiercely intense, be it in the quest for
superiority on the field or for office in the SLRFU. It has been so
even before the Clifford Cup inter-club tournament was born in the
early 1950s. The genesis of the CR&FC, it is claimed, is in a
dispute in the Havelocks; the dissenting members walked out of the
door and went about setting up base at Longden Place. The deep
rivalry between the CR and CH was born of racial and political
difference: the colonizers' white-only club versus the dark-skinned
locals. Inter-club rivalry so became quite an infectious thing. And
as the game won greater public affection, the rivalry spread to all
clubs, initially, as said before, in the quest for on-field
superiority and then, inevitably, the power of office.
such history, yes, the rivalry did at times get quite acrimonious.
But, where other sport would not think twice about abandoning valued
principles of old to win petty, personal gains, rugby somehow lived
by its traditional values, in other words, by the gentlemen's code.
That is, on the field, you gave it your all and walked away as
friends, to an evening of bonhomie over beer and banter; victor and
vanquished one family. These days, however, losing players break the
jaws of referees, coaches head-butt each other and clubs shut the
gate on their guest team's coach.
aren't any better in the administration, too. No longer is it true
that officials, in the privacy of the conference room, would
exchange angry words, then shake hands and re-talk the hotly debated
issue with calmer minds over rugby's lovely leveller, a tankard of
beer. These days it's not unusual to rush a lost debate to the desk
of the Sport Ministry - for redress by gazette, virtually.
why has the long-unspoilt administration now gone bad? The popular
reason that is advanced is club rivalry, which is a load of
nonsense. For the simple reason that inter-club rivalry is as old as
the game, but it never caused the good game the sort of shame it
does these days. On the contrary, club rivalry had a marvellous
influence on the game, as reflected by the multitudes that packed
all four sides of the ground. If a quarter of that old crowd
assembled at a match these days that would earn the superlative
''large". It is true, unlike in the halcyon days, rugby has to
compete with other forms of entertainment, but then it's the job of
administrators to adopt ways and means of preserving the game's
public popularity. It is an admission of a bankruptcy of ideas that
the union opened the doors to foreign players three seasons ago -
after packing them off some eight years ago because the scheme was
not beneficial to the country's rugby, in both finance and technical
terms. After all, pray tell me the wisdom of allowing foreigners to
play for the clubs when the law forbids their inclusion in the
national team? If, as argued by some, the foreigners help raise
standards, then, why have we descended to the level of minnows in
Asia. And neither has their presence put more bums on seats at
matches, which was the real reason for letting foreigners back to
our fields. The crowd of the 1960s through to the 80s is proof
enough that the locals are a better attraction - and why the numbers
have dwindled is due to unimaginative management of the game.
problems have less to do with club rivalry and more to do with the
quality of men that holds the controls of administration. It would
be wishful thinking to find among the younger men assuming office
the likes of Colin MacFarquson, John Collins, John Banks, Noel
Gratien, Drs Rogo Austin and Willie Ratnavale. They were honourable
gentlemen whose administration was based on ethics, fair play and
honesty. Even to hint self-interest on their part would've been as
grave as committing treason. They set the standards that became
traditions, born and nurtured by colonial values, somehow endured
even though independence brought different sets of values, not
always with happy consequences. In the case of rugby, its entrenched
principles began to loosen at the roots with the advent of
professionalism. And rugby management, of merely working off gate
receipts, which weren't small, lost its simplicity. Big money became
the name of the game, and what money breeds need no elaboration
here. This is not to cast suspicions of financial jiggery-pokery,
but financial indiscipline, yes. In the situation where money
decides all things - and it does in rugby - then, inevitably, the
old values by which the game was governed, in its pristine times I
might add, gets ''corrupted". That word in quotes might be
harsh, given that professionalism's crutch is money.
question is whether the men taking office are capable of handling
all the complexities of managing a professional sport. If they were,
then, rugby wouldn't be in the shambles it is in. Clearly, the game
is in need of matured, experienced hands to get it out of this hole,
to teach the younger officials of the old values they grew up with
and set new standards. Rugby has those mature men who can serve on
something of a Board of Governors, the sort of model that one-time
Cricket Board secretary S Skandakumar suggested to end cricket's
factionalism. Rugby has the men to sit on such a board - men like, Y
C Chang, Lionel Almeida, Malik Samarawickream, Gamini Fernando, Dr
Maiya Gunasekera, Anton Benedict, all union presidents of better
times. There are other eminent elders too. The inclusion of
representatives of the game's sponsors might be useful, given that
the body would sit in judgement over policy.
such a body had been in place, the hiring of an expensive CEO and
the buying of television time to air premier division matches -
hardly a wise thing to do when clubs are striving to enhance gate
collections - might never have seen the light of day. It didn't take
too long to discover that the CEO and the television deal were
unaffordable - and both were flung out of the window. As well, long
serving staff members were fired. And the expatriate technical
director has been placed on half-salary. It's all an unholy mess.
hard as it is to absorb our descent to the status of minnows of
Asia, it isn't surprising, really.
takes charge of Davis Cup squad again
A show of faith and trust, the SLTA has again placed Sri Lanka's
Davis Cup fortunes in the hands of coach, Enrico Piperno.
Bombay-based Indian professional coach was the guiding hand behind
Sri Lanka's Davis Cup promotion to Group Three last February, after
languishing three years in Group 4. The four-man team - of Renouk
Wijemanne, Rajiv Rajapakse, Franklyn Emmanuel and Rohan de Silva -
performed exceptionally to finish unbeaten in the nine-nation Asia
Zone tie held in Jordan.
Piperno's influence the country's junior squad too performed
impressively in Asia/Oceania Junior Davis Cup tie, finishing fifth
out of 15 countries, including big guns Australia, India and Japan.
the challenge is going to be tougher at the Group 3 level, but then
the preparation this time round is far more comprehensive. There's a
lot you can do in five months, so I am hopeful the boys will do
well," said Piperno, of Italian descent, whose list of prot‚g‚s
include Grand Slam winners, Mahesh Bhupathy and Leander Paes.
had his first session with the local squad last week. ''I'll be
holding three 10-day sessions in Colombo, three sessions of 10-12
days in my training academy in Bombay and will accompany the players
on a tour of three-four Asian Satellite tournaments," said
Piperno. "They would have been through a pretty busy program
before the Davis Cup competition."
job of the juniors will be more testing. With Franklyn Emmanuel and
Nishenderan Sivendran having outgrown the junior ranks, Piperno's
task will be to raise a competitive unit out of relatively
notable absentee from the senior squad is the talented Rajiv
Rajapakse. His place is to be filled by ITF champion, Oshada
Wijemanne. The SLTA has persuaded the 17-year-old to put on hold his
plans to join the Vandermeer Academy in the US and be a part of
Pepirno's Davis Cup training program. ''I think he'll be doing his
US ambitions much good by picking up experience by playing in the
Asian tournaments and the Davis Cup itself," said Piperno.
academy is based in the Cricket Club of India, in Mumbai, catering
to emerging champions. Among those attending the academy are
Bhupathy and Sania Mirza, the Junior Wimbledon champion.
it is very encouraging to have Enrico do the job for us again. He
did quite some marvellous things with our players to get us to Group
Three. We know it's going to be tougher at a higher level, which is
why we are putting the players in his charge for five months. His
experience in the job makes us hopeful," said Suresh
Subramaniam, SLTA president.
Davis Cup tie is scheduled to be held next February in Qatar.
miracle if we can beat China - Simpkin
Lanka is warned not to assume anything, even though it has to
contend with the challenges of only minnows at the 19th Asian Rugby
Championship, October 27-31 in Hong Kong. And the warning comes from
SLRFU Technical Advisor, George Simpkin, no less.
among the five minnows of Asian rugby - China, Malaysia, India and
debutantes Pakistan and Macao - Sri Lanka, a seasoned Asiad
competitor, has to be considered the favourities to take the Bowl.
But Simpkin begs to differ: "Beating China will require a
miracle." And Simpkin is something of an authority on China
rugby being the man who introduced the sport to the communist
country in the mid-90s and was its first coach.
to why he thinks China should not be taken lightly. "What we've
often seen of China in overseas competition is misleading. Because
their players require visas to leave the country - and the
government doesn't issue them as a matter of course - their touring
teams haven't been a collection of their best players. For instance,
many of their better players didn't make it for the Singer/SriLankan
Airlines Sevens because they couldn't get government permission to
leave," said Simpkin. ''But no requirements are required to
visit Hong Kong which is now a part of China. So, the Chinese team
coming out to Hong Kong is going to be quite another
the return of the one-time British colony to China in 1997, the
dividing borders between the mainland and Hong Kong have
disappeared. In fact, these days an Army team from China competes in
one of Hong Kong's domestic tournaments, according to Simpkin. As
well, a few of China's national players are professionals playing
for Hong Kong clubs in the premier tournament.
the Chinese are taking full measure of home-advantage and are
putting everything into their preparations. I am told they would've
played three internationals against Hong Kong (who play in the
top-tier Cup segment) before the Asiad," says Simpkin.
''Unfortunately, as far as preparations go, we lag behind China's
Lanka's preparations proper begun only last weekend. ''Combined
training was scheduled to begin the week before last, but that
wasn't possible because the club knockout final was held on that
Sunday," said Simpkin. ''So we'll be going into the tournament
with just about three weeks of combined practices, which is a shame-
it'll be miracle if we beat China."
anything, what was required was a comprehensive residential training
camp, beginning no sooner than when litigation put a freeze on the
domestic tournament in late August. ''It's not funny but we'll be
taking some players who haven't played competitive rugby since
August 29 when the knockout tournament was suspended. More than half
the players in the training squad haven't had a game in nearly six
weeks," lamented Simpkin.
the lack of the desirable preparation, Sri Lanka's one-match path to
the Bowl final is a huge relief. All it has to do is win over
debutantes Pakistan in its solitary Group match - and few doubt that
won't happen. China has to win two matches to confirm their place in
the Bowl final, which is a polite phrase for what is really a
playoff for the 9/10 slots in the Asian rankings. Consider if Sri
Lanka drew the short straw and found itself in China's place, i.e.
having to win two matches to qualify for the Bowl final. One of
them, against India, wouldn't pose problems, but the outcome of the
other, against Malaysia, would've been less certain. After all, the
Malaysians aren't quite the pushovers they once were, and, I dare
say, won't regard themselves as underdogs against the Chinese.
of the uncertainty that Malaysia might've caused, it is a reasonable
assumption that Sri Lanka will figure in the Minnows' final on
October 31. And on that day Simpkin's "miracle" better
come true. Because, if, with a rugby history of over a century, we
still aren't good enough to be no.1 among even the lowest of Asia,
then, it is justifiable to question our continuance in international
rugby. At least, a moratorium on overseas competition would have to
be considered until improvements are made at home, on and off the
WAS WRONG: The president of the SLRFU in 1974, the year Colombo
hosted the Fourth Rugby Asiad, was SUMMA NAVARATNAM, not Kavan
Rambukwella as stated in the story: This isn't a Bowl of Cherries.
But the chairmanship of the ARFU, traditionally given to the host
Union, was handed to Eustace Matthysz; the SLRFU president at the
time Sri Lanka was awarded the venue in 1972. I was also wrong with
the SLRU president of 1990, when Colombo next hosted the Asiad.
LIONEL ALMEIDA was then president, not Y C CHANG, who was, however,
the chairman of the ARFU in 1990.
takes all sorts to make the world
Psychology's friends include a boy whose father is a politician,
another whose brother is the leading Human Rights lawyer in his
country and a third whose dad works for the United Nations. Not a
bad bunch. Typical youngsters, high spirited and forever pranging
cars and leaving the kitchen untidy. Only one weakness has been
detected. In every spare moment they sit glued to the television
it takes all sorts to make the world. After a struggle it is just
possible to grasp the attractions of kidneys, Big Brother, lifestyle
magazines, ironing, beetroot and Celine Dion. An open mind is
required or else life becomes a bore. Apart from reservations about
humourless Germans, loud Australians, diving Italians, condescending
Englishmen, arrogant Frenchmen, loud North Americans, murky South
Americans, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and any male apart from Federer
sporting a pony tail and anyone at all wearing tattoos, I am quite
without prejudice. But smack down wrestling?
years ago I was taken to the wrestling. A gentleman with a dark
countenance called Mick McManus was fighting an angelic soul wholly
incapable of indulging in the sort of malpractice pursued by his
unscrupulous opponent. Mr McManus thought nothing of grasping his
victim in holds that would raise eyebrows in an Iraqi prison. As far
as he was concerned there was no better time to hit a man than when
he was down.
long the crowd was roaring its disapproval. Old ladies waving
umbrellas stormed towards the ring to berate and if possible pummel
the villain of the piece. Do not imagine that this boy maintained
the ironic outlook that had created such a favourable impression
amongst contemporaries in the previous season. Something in the air
prevented calm consideration of matters in hand. Presently the
entire crowd was in what poets describe as a tumult of emotion.
first McManus had an edge . How the crowd yearned for our saintly
champion to turn the tables. How we gasped as he was thrown around
the ring and subjected to batterings of a sort only seen nowadays in
the best private schools. Defeat seemed to have him by the short and
curlies as, indeed, did his tormentor. McManus revelled in his
discomfort and generally appeared about as genial as a driver after
a fifth consecutive red light.
then, quite suddenly a change came over the bout. Our man rallied
valiantly.. McManus looked successively surprised, alarmed and
appalled. On another day the thought might have occurred that the
turnaround was the most remarkable turn of events since the parting
of the Red Sea but judgement had long since been suspended.
to the delight of the noisy crowd the baddie was suppressed
whereupon he left the ring far from gruntled... In the next bout Mr
Jackie Pallo, a thoroughly bad egg, also came a cropper after a
promising start. And then we wended our way home satisfied that all
was well with the world. Did we grasp the theatrical content of the
evening? Perhaps but it hardly seemed to matter.It was an
entertaining evening and a pleasant break from mathematics.
the bouts shown on television are anything to go by, wrestling
hasn't changed all that much.. Admittedly the fighters nowadays
resemble The Incredible Hulk , which might explain their popularity
on the Indian subcontinent where muscles are admired. Otherwise the
tussles seem to contain about the same amount of grunting, cheating,
breast-beating, scowling, suffering and pitfalls as before.
thing has changed. An awful lot of talking takes place before and
after each bout. Mr McManus was the strong, silent type. Nor was Mr
Pallo much of a conversationalist. Now the host. addresses the crowd
through a microphone and the contestants harangue each other with
long speeches of the type designed to boil the blood of a trout.
Recently one burly chap broke into hip-hop .On another occasion,
cement was poured into a coffin..
of these antics lacked humour. The fighting, too, lacked the
insouciance brought to proceedings by Mr McManus and company.
Scrapping outside the ring has become a routine. Even the tag
matches lacked spark. At times it was hard to tell which fellow was
the wrong'un and which was our knight in shining armour. Or perhaps
that was the lesson. Heroes and villains are old hat.
is the attraction? . Perhaps it is our version of the Roman
amphitheatre, a harmless and voluntary _expression of the darkness
within. Huge crowds can watch the wrestlers as they throw each other
around , sharing their pain a s they land with a thump upon the
canvass. They can cheer their favourite and as night falls return to
the routines of another day.
the reason, professional wrestling is more popular than ever.
Certainly it has come a long way since the days of Mick Mcmanus.
Modern fighters are bigger and fitter and they are laughing all the
way to the bank.
grand prize winner flies to UK
Perera, the grand prize winner of the HSBC Premier Golf Classic
Tournament received an all expenses paid hospitality package for
two, inclusive of air tickets to watch the World Match Golf
Championship to be held at Wentworth United Kingdom.
year's Championship to be held at the Wentworth Club in the UK from
14 to 17 October, will include five of the world's top eight players
competing for the first prize of ś1 million - the largest in world
golf. The 16-player
field for the 2004 HSBC World Match Play Championship is the most
international line-up in the 41-year history of the Championship.
receives two complimentary tickets to the United Kingdom,
accommodation at the Penny Hill Park Hotel in London and will
receive priority treatment at the Hexagon Suite during the World
Match Play Championship in Wentworth.
Thomas' College Sports Quadrangular
inaugural Sports Quadrangular, involving schools at Bandarawela,
Kolupitiya and Gurutalawa will be held on 15, 16 and 17 of October.
primary objectives of this pioneering effort, which will be hosted
by S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, is to encourage and develop
sports at the colleges.
is based on the concept that S. Thomas' is committed to providing an
all-round education that focuses on academic as well as non-academic
development and growth.
this instance, the "Thomian Quad" will focus on providing
an opportunity of the development of athletics, badmintion,
basketball and Soccer amongst the talented school boys and those who
are interested in those disciplines of sport.
further primary objective is to develop the fraternal ties between
the Old Boys Associations of the four schools.
pioneering event is in fact the very first occasion where all four
schools are joining together with common objectives of developing
Sports and strengthening the friendship network that exists amongst
Old Boys of the schools.
is also a fact that, S. Thomas' College is the only college in Sri
Lanka that has three branch schools.
year 2004 is historic in that a new platform is being created as a
result of the "Thomian Quad" to strengthen the "ties
that bind!" and will see the bringing together of the Thomian
family in an innovative manner that will create future benefits to
all four brother schools.
inaugural event in 2004, begins on Friday 15 October, and concludes
on the morning of Sunday 17.
BMV all island netball champs
our Kurunegala sports corr.
Balika MahaVidyalaya won the overall championship at the all island
inter-school netball tournament concluded at Kurunegala recently.
Over 750 schools participated in this year's tournament that was
sponsored by Nestle Lanka Ltd for the Milo trophy for the 13th year.
Development Bank win six-a-side
our Badulla sports corr.
the Budulla District Inter Bank and Financial Companies Six-a-side
softball cricket tournament played at the Vincent Dias stadium,
Badulla recently, the Uva development Bank beat L.O.L.C by 3 wickets
in the final to emerge the champions.
Pada College excel in chess
our Buddulla corr.
Pada College, Hatton under 12 team comprising, D Nimasha, D.
Wijewickrema, K. Lakmal, H Wijeratne won the open inter-club team
chess championship conducted at Sri Pada College, Hatton, recently.
Over 180 players participated in the championship where Hatton chess
academy emerged the runner-up.