The demise of P.D. Sirisena, who was popularly known as “Sira”, removes from our midst another outstanding football player and a brilliant coach, who will be sorely missed by the wide circle of soccer fans, friends and young players. In the annals of history of local football, I have never seen a fine dribbler and [...]


P.D. Sirisena – a moon among the stars


P.D. Sirisena was honoured for his yeomen services to football by FFSL during a reception held for then FIFA boss Joseph Sepp Blatter in 2014 - File pix

The demise of P.D. Sirisena, who was popularly known as “Sira”, removes from our midst another outstanding football player and a brilliant coach, who will be sorely missed by the wide circle of soccer fans, friends and young players.

In the annals of history of local football, I have never seen a fine dribbler and a sharp accurate shooter like Sirisena who beat some of our top goalkeepers.

As a soccerite Sirisena had a successful career from 1950 to 1970 he was simply fearless as a moon amongst the stars. He played for his country for an uninterrupted span of ten years. Showing glimpses of class at school in the early 50’s he blossomed into a talented player while playing football for Saunders FC at the young age of just 16.

It was in club football that Sirisena rose like a star above the rest as a fine inside forward – fearless in attacking.

He first represented the national team in 1962 and played for the country for nearly ten years. Captained the national team on various occasions.

Sirisena was a product of Maradana Central College and it is said that as a schoolboy he excelled not only in soccer but in boxing as well. Upon leaving school he joined Saunders FC and played beside players in the calibre of Wilson, Soloman, Marcus, K.A. Premadasa, Issadeen, Eric Perera, followed by Lionel Pieris, M.A. Ameer, C.S. Fernando, Siraratnam, Ananda Peiris, Edward Wickamasuriya and Judy Preena, to name a few.

Playing in the left inside position wearing the No.10 jersey was the centre attraction whenever he entered the soccer field. Ardent supporters of Sirisena will remember good number of matches where he single-handedly changed the complexion of the game by scoring many goals with his dazzling performance. He spearheaded Saunders FC to become champions in various tournaments conducted by the Ceylon Football Association and various local leagues. We saw Sirisena being carried to the pavilion on the shoulders of the spectators with the trophy in his hands. When I had the privilege of carrying the “Best Player Award” at that famous Ranpandu Football Tournament conducted by the Colombo Football League, Sirisena was awarded the “Most Popular Player Award”.

Both of us have played many tournament matches and cup finals against each other representing Saunders FC vs Victory FC, but both of us never played foul or had individual arguments between us. Further as coaches when our clubs play against each other, whether we win or lose, we used to have cordial discussion after the match about the mistakes of our players. As a player I toured with Sirisena to participate in various international competitions. In 1968 on that famous European tour both of us accompanied my brother, M.M. Hassimdeen. I had the privilege of working very closely with Sirisena when he was the Technical Director of the FFSL while I was the Director – Youth Football Development. Both of us did a marvelous job, by introducing a programme to develop our country’s football from the grass-root level, involving 600 schools from all over the island. Unfortunately due to lack of support and financial assistance from the FFSL, I resigned from my position, however Sirisena did his best to carry on with the project. Due to same reasons mentioned above, he too could not achieve the goal.

Sirisena had a undying bond with Saunders FC, where the home ground was Price Park, just behind his house. He used to always mention that he loves Saunders SC more than his parents. He represented this club from 1956 to 1972 as a player since he was only 16 years old. He made his international debut in 1962 and captained the country on number of occasions, played professional football in Bangladesh, Holland and Wales. He coached the Sri Lanka National team from 1976 to 1980. Sirisena is the first Sri Lankan coaching instructor appointed by the Asian Football Confederation.

His mission and vision was to develop football from the grass-root level in the country. Up to his last breath, Sirisena was spending his valuable time and energy in the football field.

The talk of the town now, is the declining standard of our football will further deteriorate with the demise of men in the calibre of Sirisena which certainly makes the game poorer.

When I went to see Sirisena at his residence last Sunday (December 17) evening, I found that his condition was poor and I was shocked and saddened with the fact that the fullness of fitness had disappeared from his physique. His cheeks were sunken and the size 14 T-shirt hung on his dropping shoulders on his a feeble and weak body.

In a situation like this, when his beloved wife mentioned to him that “Hassim has come to see you” he opened his eyes and just shook his hand, saying that he knew who has come. When I rubbed his head he closed both his eyes, then his wife in tears screaming at him to open his eyes which he humbly did so. What a heart rendering scene it was. He however peacefully passed away the following day at 02.00am.

Sirisena and wife during his last days

At many occasions I have told Sirisena that he made a big mistake by abandoning his job at Bank of Ceylon and sacrificing his profession for the sake of football. If he had continued in the bank job he would have at least retired as a Bank Manager and received a reasonable pension.

Fortunately he was blessed with two sons Chanaka and Manjula, who did their best to help their parents. His beloved wife Siriyalatha had patience to tolerate Sirisena when he spent his whole life for the sake of football. In fact she smiled and said: “I am only the second wife to Sirisena, his first wife was football”. What a courage and faithful wife she is.

If football hadn’t given Sirisena anything else, at least it had left him with the quality of perseverance.

His overwhelming commitment to football was indeed remarkable. No doubt the whole nation will appreciate and salute Sirisena for his contribution to football. He has run his race, he has kept his course and lived his faith to the end. May his journey to the life beyond be one of peace and harmony and may he receive the blessing of everyone of us, particularly from the players, who played besides him and from the players whom he produced as a coach which he richly deserve. However, the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) in a laudable effort recently honoured a few veterans in football. But for a man like P.D. Sirisena, who sacrificed all his time and energy to bring honour and glory to Mother Lanka through football, has not adequately compensated or appreciated by the football administrators.

The FFSL should step in and see that his widow wife should not be insecure and starve at her little home each passing day. No doubt the two sons, Chanaka and Manjula, will certainly help her but they have their own families to look after. Over to you Mr. President of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka.

I conclude by saying: having realised the fate of Sri Lanka football which has dropped to the rock bottom in the world ranking to the 200th position out of 209 countries. And also the fate of my good old friends – P.D. Sirisena, S.M.M. Namiz, Sabur Mohideen, and T.S. Samath, who rendered a valuable service for the development of football, I feel like stepping down from old activities of football.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.