First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


August 5, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 7










Entire team eliminated in their first bouts in C'wealth C'ship

K.AC. 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 battle.

If the principle of 'investment/profit' is applied, then you have to ask what profit has accrued to Sri Lanka 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 was crushing.

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 stayed home.

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 second night.

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 Municipality XI.

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 1975.

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 Arabia.

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 semifinal break.

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 UAE-Vietnam game.

Despite the suspensions President, AFC, Mohamed Bin Hammam, said he was happy and satisfied with the standard of refereeing at this Asian Cup competition.

"There would have been some human errors, here and there, but in general I'm satisfied" he said.

The next Asian Cup in Qatar

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.

Travel Trade 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 Hotel Dolphin.

Charity golf tournament

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 charities.

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 football

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

- H.M.

Sports happenings at a glance


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 Sugathadasa Stadiums.



India win 2nd Test

India beat England by seven wickets in the 2nd test played at Nottingham.

Scores 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 participated.

The Lankans 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

The Lankans 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 Andrew Hall. 

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 be Felicitated

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

077 2418823,

Arthur Hakel 071 2732000,

Ranjan de Silva   077 7712163, Angelo Ranasinghe 077 2440389, Harsha de Silva 077 7884455.

More Sports

Sports happenings
at a glance

A tribute to a real gentleman (Bernard Wijetunge Snr)

Four match officials  suspended for poor standards

The next Asian Cup in Qatar

Travel Trade women's  softball cricket sixes

Charity golf tournament

Blatter hails Asian football

Josephian team to be Felicitated


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