ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

Value and Tradition

By Dr. Solomon Tutu

As our island nation sinks deeper into war, the one event which is looked forward to by not only Royalists and Thomians but also the general public is the Royal-Thomian. It is one of the few pleasures or events of fun that the average Lankan is entitled to in this war-torn violence-filled country. It's the only three days we could all dance our cares away with our brothers 'near and far'!

Ask any Royalist or Thomian what the difference between any other match and the ' Roy – Tho' big match, is and the answer is quite simple. The ' Roy – Tho' is not all about cricket. In fact, if it was only a game of cricket it would have died a long time ago. It is an age old tradition mixed with three days of festivity. It is an ironic mixture of revelry and piety. It seems incredible that three days of cricket awaited in eager anticipation could be taken so seriously, in the atmosphere of joviality, nonsense and high spirit that virtually overwhelms the scene.

The big match is in fact one long carnival. Its early signs are manifested a month before in the hive of activity that surrounds the preparation of the souvenir. This excellent endeavour abounds in satire, wit and caricature that make it fascinating reading for the fastidious as well as the restless.

It is also a meeting place. A place where old boys renew acquaintances with former classmates, and former players recall with pride their exploits on this hallowed turf. Nostalgia is a predominant feature here. Which old boy can truthfully say that this annual event does not evoke memories of the days gone by, those days that can never be replaced?

On the other hand the young females come dressed to kill in the colours of the two schools. Some even go to the extremes of wearing a college flag around the neck so it would look like a blue and gold or blue and black cloak. We must also not overlook the many partnerships (conjugal) that have had tentative beginnings here.

When one talks about tradition with regards to the two schools, the Big Match tradition plays a major part. The Cycle parade, the papare bands, the visit to the cemetery at night by the souvenir committee and last but not least trucking on the day of the cycle parade are the essence of the whole theme of having a Big Match. One could also call this the opening ceremony of the Big Match as these take place a day prior to the match.

The day before this grand occasion the students play the game of cops and robbers literally by going in trucks, buses and vans that are merrily decorated in the colours of their respective colleges and ducking the police after jumping into almost every girls school in Colombo. The unfortunate will inevitably get caught by the police. But getting caught has always been a usual phenomenon during the Big Match season and is taken in good spirit.

The older school boys, getting intoxicated and sprawling all over the SSC, chanting baila songs, being noted to the principal and getting busted by cops like a convict after going trucking during the cycle parade, gives a touch of sanctified lunacy to the proceedings. Nonsensical Yes! But remove this aspect and wittiness…how empty the scene could be.

Every behavioural deviation is catered for. This is what makes the Royal – Thomian big match more unique than any other cricket match played around the world. The Battle of the Blues will be celebrating 129 years on March 13 - 15 is still going strong. In an era where sport has become a money-making venture, the ' Roy – Tho' is a paradigm of the traditions and values of the game.

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