By Subhani Hassimdeen Saunders .S.C: It was in the mid-1920s when a few youthful schoolboys living around Price Park in Pettah, who watched and played barefoot football under the shadow of their seniors, got together one day to form a football club of their own. Young Richard Dias-in his early teens- of St’ Benedict’s College [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Four oldest surviving football clubs in the island


By Subhani Hassimdeen

Saunders .S.C:

Saunders SC very much alive even today.- File photo

It was in the mid-1920s when a few youthful schoolboys living around Price Park in Pettah, who watched and played barefoot football under the shadow of their seniors, got together one day to form a football club of their own. Young Richard Dias-in his early teens- of St’ Benedict’s College was the leader of this boyish pack. Along with his close colleagues, K. Nagoor and Peter Perera, they formed the club Saunders S.C. Richard Dias the founder, was the third of four brothers, Marshall, Phillip, Richard and George who excelled at football.

Their father, Girigoris Dias was a businessman of the Edinburge market and was a fairly well-to-do person. With their residence adjoining Price Park, it was only natural that the four brothers took to football early on in their childhood. Young Richard beckoned his father to be the first President of Saunders S.C and his close associate Peter Perera as its first Secretary. Richard was the first captain of the club and had D.H.O. Melder, Erwin Perera, Don Joseph, Sabreen and Velayutham as key players in the team. The Dias brothers were capped for the country on several occasions. They were the first quartet to play for the national team, a feat later equalled by the Hassimdeen brothers –Naheem, Muzzammil, Subhani and Uvaisul. There was one person who should be recorded here: the Chief Playground Instructor, P.G. De Silva. The amiable tutor and mentor, was the principal figure behind these great players. In fact he was the first to take a barefoot team on a tour of Singapore in 1928. The Saunders which Richard Dias built grew in size and stature from its humble beginnings as the years rolled by, and this illustrious club has maintained its pride and position through the years, gathering strength and success in the process. The trophies it has won, the championships it has conquered and the national players it has produced are far too many to list down. However, I wish to mention a few top players from this famous club who donned the national jersey. They are: K.A. Premadasa , K.S. Richard ,Basheer Ahamed , T.J. Azeez, Solomon , Eric Perera , C.S. Fernando , P.D. Sirisena, Edward Wickremasuriya, M.A. Ameer , Lionel Peiris , Judy Perera, Sivaratnam , Mahinda Palitha and Sumith Walpola to name a few. Saunders Sports Club is a household name today and is undisputedly the most glamorous football club in Sri Lanka.

Java Lane F.C

Amongst the earliest football clubs in Ceylon, Java Lane FC was formed in 1925. T.W. Hockley was the first President and Tom Laxana was the club Secretary. The club, which was housed in Java lane Colombo 02, catered primarily to the Malay community, the largest ethnic group in that area. For a number of years, it was an incredibly impressive football outfit and dominated the De Mel League and City Football League competitions.

Some of the renowned footballers who donned Java Lane colours in the initial years were, the Mowlana brothers, Basheer, T.K. Buhar, Samman, Hallon, M.A. Hassan, Drahaman, Zain Ahamath , Bammon, Muttiah, Muthaliph, Hajireen and T.G. Amith . Muttiah, the only non-Malay or Moor, was the first captain of the club team. Java Lane won the De Mel League and City Football League titles in 1926 and 1927 respectively.

However, after the Second World War, this famous club began to fold up. With new clubs emerging on the scene, most of their players were moving away, seeking new grass for their feet. For many years this great club went off the beam and nothing was heard of it. In recent time, some enthusiastic lovers of the sport resurrected Java Lane and we see them taking part in major football tournaments conducted by the sport’s controlling body, the City Football League and the Colombo Football League. They have won many competitions in recent year and have produced many national players in the calibre of M.A. Hassan, T.K. Buhar, Imtiyas Sourjah, Nagoor and Ali. While it is a fine effort to have brought the old war horse back to life, it has quite a long way to go to recapture its former glamour and glitter.

Colpetty United FC

Another of our vintage clubs is Colpetty United F.C. which was formed in 1922. This club made its debut in the Time Cup and later played in the Mackie Shield competition.

Its founder members were Messrs A.R.B. Dias, W. Amarapala Fernando, S. Balasingam, M.D. Fernando, P. Edwin Fernando and W.G. Wilfred. While A.R.B. Dias became its first President, S. Balasingam and W. Amarapala Fernando, were the Joint Secretaries. M.D. Fernando was the Treasurer.

Colpetty United F.C. was at the forefront of local football and, as a top flight unit, figured in many championships. The club produced one of finest players in Andrew Fernando, who reigned supreme as a crafty forward in the national squad for a number of years and Piyadasa Perera, a brilliant goalkeeper who was in the national squad for a long period. Others who represented the national team with distinction were J. Upali, Ranjith de Silva, P.D. Hemachandra, John Buultjens and Asoka Ravindra to name a few. Colpetty United won the first Gold Cup Tournament in 1961 and also the A Division title of the Colombo Football League and City Football League. It also won the Abdul Rahuman Cup in 1969 and the Silver Cup in 1970. However, this great club is running its affairs in low- gear at present for various reasons which they are aware of.

Old Josephians S.C

Another colourful and illustrious football club in Sri Lanka is the Old Josephians Sports Club, founded in 1935 by that distinguished Josephian, the late K. Marcus Perera. The club in essence is the standard bearer of St Joseph’s College. Some of the club’s pioneers were: Edward Henry, J.C.W. Obeysekera, Walter Suraweera, Peter Peiris, Fred, Stanley Perera, Gabriel, Sethukuvaler, George and Alcon Powell. Most of them were football players and built a strong foundation for the club.

In 1937, the Old Joes, as they were soon called, triumphed over the Royal Navy Yard team of Trincomalee in the finals of the then-prestigious Times Cup Competition. The Old Joes won this game by 2 goals to nil at the CH & FC grounds. The following year too, the Old Joes figured in the final, but lost to Badulla Rangers narrowly. Edward Henry led the club in those early years. In 1957 the Old Joes won the coveted CFA Cup beating Cargills at the Colombo Oval captained by Durand Perera. They also figured in many finals in the Colombo Football League Championship.

In Peter Ranasinghe, Durand Perera, Bagoos Saldin, K.M. Thomas, Anton Mariyadasan, Terrance Kuruppu, and the Croos brothers, the Old Joes had a galaxy of national stars. Peter Ranasinghe went on to captain the national team and was acclaimed to be the best centre-back in Asia.

The Old Joes, although presently not so active in the game, should re-vamp themselves to recapture their lost glamour and glory,
The writer is a former national football captain and national coach.

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