India will overtake us at rugby warns Tony Amit

Text and pic. by Rangi Akbar
Tony Amit

“India is a growing power in rugby. If we do not put our house in order they are bound to overtake us,” warned Tony Amit, leading rugby coach and referee during an interview. Amit has just returned from an Educator Coach Referees’ seminar held in Pune, India organized by the International Rugby Board. The coaches at the seminar had been South Africans Norman Laker and Davy Simon.

“The Indian structure is vastly improved and their skill level is high. What’s more all those who are in the Indian rugby pool are drawing a monthly allowance of 30,000 Indian Rupees and they have been told without inhibitions that the country and not the club should be their top priority.

“The Indian government bears the cost for nutrition at training camps. They are very keen to get rugby to the top,” said Amit.

The seminar had taken place at the Charakawarthy Stadium where short distance running prodigy Shehan Ambepitiya of Sri Lanka was crowned as the fastest youth of South Asia whilst still a schoolboy at Gateway International Colombo.

The Indian authorities are now gearing for the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi where rugby too will be one of the games.

It is reported that motorized rickshaw drivers in the Indian capital will be trained to be courteous and articulate by the country's tourism ministry ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games. New Delhi is preparing to host more than 100,000 foreign visitors during the Oct. 3-14 event and the city is hoping to use the international gathering to show itself off as a major global destination. Subsequently, more than 8,000 auto rickshaw drivers would be trained over the next one year.

The Indian rugby that we know centers on a few teams such as the Bengal Tigers, Maharasthra Police and Calcutta. Some of these teams have played on our soil and Sri Lankan sides have made mince meat of them. Then there was a time, before the Asian Championships came into being, that our sole foreign competition was playing in the All India Championships and Sri Lanka has always cake-walked them to win the title.

Amit made an ardent appeal to the authorities concerned to harness the services of some of Sri Lanka’s rugby greats such as Summa Navaratnam, Y.C. Chang, Lionel Almeida, Gamini Fernando, Anton Benedict and Kumar Abeyewardene and others to lift Sri Lanka’s rugby from the mire it has fallen into
Tony Amit’s concern is that if Sri Lanka does not put its rugby affairs in order India will overtake them in a jiffy.

“There should be total understanding among referees and coaches. There was a time when good organization with good structure was the hall mark of Sri Lankan rugby. Now everything seems to have gone to pieces with the dissolution of the Rugby Referees Society by the Interim Committee for Rugby. The Sri Lanka Referees Society is not recognized by the International Rugby Board (IRB) or the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) now,” lamented Amit.

Due to this misunderstanding between the Referees Society and the Interim Committee Sri Lanka did not have a referee at the just concluded Junior Rugby Asiad.

Tony Amit pointed out that there are two referees in Sri Lanka’s A Panel. They are Dilroy Fernando and Nizam Jamaldeen. Those categorized into the B Panel are: D. Nimal, Aruna Jayasekera, Priyantha Gunaratne and Pradeep Fernando with the performances of the last two named being scrutinized.
The four accredited referee coaches in Sri Lanka are: Nimal Perera, Mahinda Jayawardena, Anil Jayasinghe and Tony Amit the panel is headed by Dilroy Fernando who is the Head Referees Development Officer for Asia.

Tony Amit was a household name in the sport in the 70s. He captained the CH&FC in 1977 and turned out for the President’s XV against Paris Universities, Japan and the London Welsh Club and was Sri Lanka’s rugby coach from 1993 to 1996 and again two years from 2002 to 2004.

As a referee he has officiated at the 1984 Asiad in Fukuoka, Japan, the 1990 Asian in Sri Lanka and at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1991.
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