Entire team eliminated in their first bouts in
Nayanajith, Harasha Kumara,
A.K.G. Kamal and Manju Wanniarachchi
The day Gomes lost
faith in his boxers
IT takes a lot to ruffle the feathers of
Dian Gomes, boss of Sri Lanka boxing. It's not that
critics have been given very many opportunities to roast
him, but any claims that he's an impeccable
administrator wouldn't win universal approval either -
not in our little world of fault-finders.
Gomes himself will be the last to claim
his style of governance is faultless. At times he
might've been a tad too insistent on having his own way
and so may have displeased some fellow-administrators.
But there was never scope for that displeasure to
develop into revolt, as happens in other sport bodies.
His foes, if there be any, probably may, at worse,
accuse him of being dictatorial, but any accusations of
self-interest, the scourge of sport administration, will
surely be rebuffed, both by friend and foe.
After all, someone who readily parts with
a part of his earnings, as well as use his good offices,
as company CEO, to secure sponsorship for the cause of
boxing, can't have vested interest. If Gomes did, he
wouldn't have been unanimously invited to head the
ABA for five straight years - years, during which the
sport's financial state was taken from penury to plenty,
international contests returned to our shores,
professional foreign coaches recruited and boxers saw
more of the world in one year than all of their
predecessors did accumulatively.
Boxing, clearly, is living in prosperous
times, so, any criticism of his administration wasn't
going to quite disturb Gomes. In any case there wasn't
much to complain about - except his exceedingly generous
treatment of the boxers. Just about everything was
provided, from well-paid jobs, coaching under foreign
professionals to participating in more than half-dozen
overseas meets per year.
In comparison to boxing's long
impoverished past, Gomes' five years have been one long
Christmas for the boxers. Not surprisingly, some
officials have been in disagreement of Gomes'
generosity, claiming the "pampering" had dulled the
boxers' edge. "I think they are spoilt - all of their
ambitions have been fulfilled, and the hunger (for
success) and bloodlust have gone," Jayakumar Thangavelu,
the ABA president before Gomes, frequently moans.
As said before, criticism doesn't ruffle
the incumbent president, but any harsh words spoken
about his boxers surely gets his goat. His response to
accusations of "pampering", in essence, runs something
on these lines: International medals don't come cheap,
investments have to be made. Looking with old eyes, the
treatment of present-day boxers might appear
"pampering", but the world over accepts that the boxers'
sole business is to train and perform; the
administration's responsibility is to provide the
boxers' every need, from coaching, international
exposure to a future after retirement. But then a
corporate CEO can't see any way other than in terms of
investments and profits - and modern sport
administration, too, is based pretty much on that
fundamental principle of business.
So, when he defends his boxers, he really
protects his investments, not so much in terms of
recouping the money spent as protecting his theory that
champions aren't made cheaply. It has to be said boxing
has for long produced champions on the cheap - put
another way, champions made on the energy and enthusiasm
of unpaid coaches and the sweat of poor boxers, driven
by hopes that boxing might bring them a better life. As
for the ABA 's contributions to making champions, well,
that's a story that has been told many times before in
this column. Suffice to say, then, officials' interest
superseded that of the boxers'.
Gomes, a junior national boxing champion
more than two decades ago, knows well of the deprivation
endured by boxers of his generation, and previous. It is
easy to assume that his theory of "investments and
profits" was put to practice as much out of sympathy for
the boxers - a majority of whom come from deprived rural
background - as for its good sense.
The problem, though, is that the boxers'
might've taken him for a soft-hearted benefactor; a
Santa Claus of all seasons. Gomes, though, trusted his
boxers, their commitment, and waved off any cautioning
that his boxers are taking things for a granted. This is
not to infer that the boxers have cheated on their
duties and responsibilities. There is a difference
between boxing out of duty and boxing with an insatiable
passion for medals, the kind required to do Olympic
If the principle of 'investment/profit'
is applied, then you have to ask what profit has accrued
boxing from the investments made on the national boxers
over the past five-six years. A silver medal was gained
in the King's Cup in 2005; two bronze from the
Commonwealth Championships, also in 2005. And, of
course, plentiful SAF medals, which was the case even in
impoverished times anyway. Nevertheless, these successes
inspired hopes of a medal or two at the 2006 Asian Games
and through it, probably, qualification for 2008 Beijing
Olympics. Alas, five of the six boxers were eliminated
on the opening night of the Asian Games and the sixth
won his first bout but lost the next. The disappointment
Even so, Gomes' didn't abandon the
pursuit of 2008 Olympic qualification, banking on the
same lot of Asian Games failures. This might be
seemingly an exercise in futility, but you have to
admire the man's patience with and trust in his boxers -
as well his determination to end Sri Lanka boxing's
absence from the Olympic ring since 1968, when H K
Karunaratne last showed the country colours in Mexico .
So, when four boxers were sent off to
Liverpool last month for the Commonwealth Championships, the hope was that a
medal success or two would get the Olympic 2008
qualification campaign off to a promising start. A new
Cuban coach had just taken over the team, and the boxers
flew out ten days before the event to undergo weeklong
training in a
Liverpool club. They might as well have
All four boxers were eliminated in their
opening bouts. Harsha Kumar's bout v. an Indian was
stopped in the second round; a Malaysian dismissed
Alexander in the third rd. Wanniarachchi's defeat to an
Indian was more respectable: he won the last two rounds
but couldn't bridge the deficit of the first two.
Sameera held a one-point lead over his Australian
opponent at the end of the third round, but had a poor
final round to concede the fight by three points.
It's a disappointment that was too much
for Gomes to bear - and one that might finally have
broken his faith in the boxers. "I could've cried when I
heard the results. Of all the countries we probably had
boxers with the most international experience. Also, all
our boxers were presented with favourable draws - they
got directly into the quarterfinals and so had to win
just one fight to take bronze," said Gomes. "It is clear
replacements have to be found and greater investments
have to go to the junior levels to find those
replacements; Sameera is probably the only one worth
retaining from the present lot."
His secretary, Major Hemantha Weerasinghe,
confirmed the search for new champions is already on.
Four junior boxers last week took residence at ABA 's
training base in Pannala. They'll train for a month
under new coach, Trotman Dailey, before flying off to
Baku , in Azerbaijan , for the World Cadet Championship,
beginning August 31.
It might seem the ABA 's interest in the
juniors has come a little too late, and was prompted by
the recent failures of the national team. That though is
some distance away from the truth. Our juniors have
fought in more than one international competition and,
in fact, won two bronze medals in the 2006 Asian Cadet
Championships. So, there's reason to believe our junior
boxing is in good health.
Perhaps, the more promising juniors
might've been encouraged to step up sooner to the higher
level. It was not as if they would oust the established
champions straightaway, but the ABA ought to have
devised ways to set the transition in motion. One lost
chance to do that comes easily to mind: the duel against
Vietnam last year. With their national team in training
for the Asian Games in China , the Vietnamese fielded a
development team, including schoolboys. They figured in
two contests here; fielding our national team for the
first is understandable. We did, and our champions won
with such embarrassing ease that it didn't make sense to
field them for a second contest. The ABA didn't, but it
might've done better had it included a junior or two in
the national second string that fought Vietnam on the
All that is spilt milk. A fresh search
has been launched, and with time the new champions would
have emerged. If lessons have been learnt from the past,
then the treatment of the emerging champions has to be
different. This is not to say the present benefits ought
to be rationed - a move that could make the sport, never
an appealing one, less acceptable to parents. No, the
boxers deserve to be given their every need, but, in
turn, they ought to be made mindful of their
responsibilities - in the language of business, asked
for returns on the investments made in them.
During the past two-three years the
national team has been more or less permanent -
Wanniarachchi, Sameera, Harsha Kumara, and one or two
more to make up the numbers. Given an international
schedule of six meets a year, we're talking of 18-20
overseas exposure per boxer over three years. Placed on
a competitions/medals scale, the needle slants too far
to the former. Given that rate of failure, a swifter
turnover of personnel might've been desirable. That
didn't happen then - a lapse that shouldn't happen as
new champions put on national vests.
A tribute to a real
gentleman (Bernard Wijetunge Snr)
I AM honoured to pen a few lines about my
team-mate of 1946 and 1947, and my very sincere friend,
Bernard Wijetunge, who passed away on July 28, 2007.
Bernard and I were also team-mates in the
'Under 14 XI' of 1941. We were coached by Cyril
Ekanayake, ably assisted by Bernard's father O.B. De S.
Wijetunge, himself a very fine batsman in the
Bernard was not only a fine batsman, but
a brilliant fielder, who excelled at cover point. When
we defeated St. Joseph's for the first time in 1946,
Bernard came in at one down and scored a scintillating
65 runs. In 1947, when we beat St. Joseph's by an
innings, Bernard opened the batting with Osmund Peiris
and scored a solid 34 runs. Bernard continued to play
cricket after he left St. Peter's, representing the
C.G.R., where he worked.
The Wijetunge dynasty continued even
after Bernard's departure from St. Peter's. His sons
also named Bernard, Darrel and grandson Sheehan, all
represented St. Peter's at cricket. In fact, Bernard Jnr.,
was the captain of the team when St. Peter's defeated
St. Joseph's at the inaugural limited over encounter in
Bernard and I were friends, good friends,
for over 70 years. Our families too were good friends,
as were our sisters who were together at Holy Family
Convent. I have nothing but praise for Bernard as a
cricketer and I have the deepest regard for him as a
person. He was the silent but strong type, whose modesty
was always in evidence. Bernard would have been 80 years
on the 1st of August, but he died four days before it.
Being the God-fearing man that he was, I am sure that
Bernard is reaping the rewards now in heaven. God grant
his soul eternal rest.
Dion Walles (Captain of the Champion
Peterite Cricket Team of 1946 & 1947)
Four match officials
suspended for poor standards
By Hafiz Markar
Four referees were suspended for their
poor performance at the recent concluded AFC 'Asia Cup'
Completion. The Iraqis emerged as champions for the
first time at this competition by defeating Saudi
One of the suspended match officials was
touch judge Tang Yew Mun, suspended after the quarter
finals between Saudi Arabia and Uzbeistan. He had
raised the flag when Uzkeb skipper Masksim Shataskihh
found the back of the net for what would have been an
equalizer, at a time when the Saudis were leading 1-0
The Uzbek team Manager raised a protest
with the AFC, after which the replay had showm the
striker to have been clearly onside.
After the review of the proceedings, the
AFC Referees Committee ruled that Mun had made an error
of judgement that may in turn have cost Uzbekistan a
Tang was suspended from future AFC
assignments, pending an ongoing assessment.
Iran's Masoud Moradi and his assistant
Sokhandan Reza were also suspended for their performance
in Qatar's last game of Group 'B' against UAE. Both were
suspended pending further assessment.
Lebanon's Naj Talaat, was suspended for
one month over his poor handling of the whistle in the
Despite the suspensions President, AFC,
Mohamed Bin Hammam, said he was happy and satisfied with
the standard of refereeing at this Asian Cup
"There would have been some human errors,
here and there, but in general I'm satisfied" he said.
The next Asian Cup in
Senior Vice President, Asian Football
Confederation, Manilal Fernando, who was the Head of
the delegation at the AFC 'Asia Cup' competition,
speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the next AFC
'Asia Cup' Competition will be held in Qatar.
President,AFC, Bin Hamam, who is a
Qatari, said that, this is going to be a memorable
competition and in this years event, the organizers gave
an excellent presentation.
Qatar was the only nation to submit a bid
to host the next tournament. India, who was tipped to do
so pulled out of the race last month, saying that it did
not have the necessary infrastructure to host the event.
women's softball cricket sixes
THE Annual Travel Trade Women's softball
Cricket Sixes was held on Sunday, July 29 at Shalika
Grounds. Club Hotel Dolphin Women's team won the
Championship by beating Amaya Lake in the Quarter
Finals, Eden and Riverina in the Semi Finals and Sri
Lankan Airlines in the Finals.
Accountant, Club Hotel Dolphin, Chitra
Fernando who was also the captain of the team was
awarded 'Women of the Tournament' and 'Best Batswoman'
while the 'Best Bowler' was Ayesha Dilini Perera and
'Best fielder' was Sudarshi Niranga. Both hail from Club
For the past three years a group of
members of the RCGC known as Golfers for Charity, in
association with the RCGC have conducted three charity
golf tournaments to raise funds to assist various
This year, the RCGC in association with
Golfers for Charity, will conduct a tournament on August
28 2007 to raise funds in aid of the Ceylon School for
the Deaf and Blind. This school at Ratmalana caters to
approximately 600 deaf and blind students coming from
all walks of life. It provides these children with an
education, accommodation, meals and vocational training
completely free of charge. The School is an approved
charity under Gazette Notification No. 10411 of
06/06/1952, and therefore any contributions towards the
School are tax exempted.
Golfers for Charity, in association with
the RCGC, have conducted charity golf tournaments to
raise funds to assist the Sri Lanka Federation for the
Visually Handicapped, the Ceylon Association for the
Mentally Retarded and the National Council for Mental
Health (Sahanaya) respectively.
With the contributions received through
this event, they hope to renovate and refurbish the
dormitories of the School, and thereby increase the
standard of accommodation provided for the children.
The Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind
seek your generous contributions and sponsorship to make
this year's event a success.
Blatter hails Asian
President, FIFA, Sepp Blatter says Asian
Football is facing a bright future, but tempered his
praise with calls for stronger organisation and more
professional leagues in Asian countries, which is a must
to develop the game.
This was said at the press conference
held on the day before the AFC Asia Cup final, where he
was in Indonesia on a two day visit to witness the Final
of the Asia Cup. He said that Asian football has now
made sure that it would be recognised in the
international World of Football but still need strong,
well-governed professional leagues in each country
Sports happenings at
SSC, Ragama Army win outright
SSC, Ragama CC and Army recorded outright
victories against Nugegoda SWC, Kandy YCC and
Sebastianites respectively in the under 23 Cricket
tournament now in progress
Silver for Lanka's 4X400 relay
Sri Lanka bagged silver in the 4X400
meters relay with a time of 3.07.29 at the 17th Asian
Athletics Championships held in Amman, Jordan.
Iraq beats Saudi Aralia 1-0 in final
Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the
2007 Asian Cup soccer final.
Yogerdron creates upset
Alexsan Yogendron Created an upset by
defeating the fancied Asitha Warrokulasooriya in
straight sets in the U-14 singles event for boys on the
first day of the Junior Tennis National Championships at
the SLTA Courts.
Saunders beat Blue Stars 1-0
Saunders beat the fancied Blue Stars, 1-0
in the Xit Premier segment 'A' (two) stage game at
India win 2nd Test
India beat England by seven wickets in
the 2nd test played at Nottingham.
England 198 and 355 India 481 and 73 for 3
Sri Lanka placed seventh
The 12 member Sri Lankan contingent did
exceptionally will to secure seventh place at the 17
Asian Athletics championship where 36 countries
bagged 3 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals.
De Mel re-appointed
Sports Minister, Gamini Lokuge
re-appointed Asantha de Mel as the chairman of the
cricket selectors for a second term.
Lankan Spikers outplay Bangladsh
came up with a superb performance to beat Bangladesh 3-1
in their third match of the Commonwealth Volleyball
Championship now in progress in Kolkutta.
Lakmalee, new SL record
Nadeeka Lakmalee of Sri Lanka Army
established a new Sri Lankan record in the women's
Javelin at the Army Volunteer meet held at the
Sugathadasa Studium. Her impressive distance of 58.40
meter s erased the national record of 56.20 meters held
by Anne Maeshi de Silva.
Malinga joins Kent
Lankan paceman, Lasith Malinge has joined
the English County, Kent, on a short term deal. His
stint will be for 3 weeks, replacing south African
Murali wins CEAT award
Lankan off spinner Muttih Muralitharan
had won the CEAT international Cricketer of the year
award for a third successive year.
Josephian team to
A Felicitation dinner for the Champion
Josephian Cricket team of 2006/07 will be held at the
Waters Edge on the 18th August 2007 from 7.00 PM
onwards. The tickets are priced at Rs 2500/= and could
be obtained from the following
Susilough de S Wijeyeratne
Arthur Hakel 071 2732000,
Ranjan de Silva 077 7712163, Angelo
Ranasinghe 077 2440389, Harsha de Silva 077 7884455.