25th March 2001
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Rover pinpoints

What a way?
Rover has a sort of a scoop - worth recording in the Guinness Book of World Records. A book, History of the local Cricket Board has been out for nearly 11 months by the establishment written and compiled by S.S.Perera On inquiry, Rover learns, that the printers of this book has been paid, but not a single cent has been given to the writer. It is learnt that the Exco must have flouted a few labour laws by not paying the writer for over ten months. The Exco has decided not to pay the writer while billions are being spent on clearing jungles. What a shame in not rewarding a writer of prestige.
Britishers up in arms
The large number of British cricket fans had their say at the SSC ground for sure, when they questioned the non-availability of a cup of tea with Sri Lanka being a top notcher in tea in the world markets. Shame on the Tea Board and the Ministry of Tourism.
Heavy canvassing
Rover learns that the Cricket Board is canvassing heavily to make an award to the Sports Journalist of the Year. They have already brought over many and this is supposed to be another way of buying over more journalists. How crazy can one be?
Heard this
A senior office-bearer of the Women's Cricket Association is the number one choice in the pool picked recently. One wonders what influence she had in picking herself as the Number 1 ahead of many others. Is it to guarantee herself in going on a tour, like building castles in the air.
Who's bluffing whom
The name of the Khettarama Stadium has been changed to R. Premadasa International Stadium in memory of R. Premadasa who was instrumental in building this stadium. It is also recognised by the ICC and bears the initials RPI. Who is trying to take credit for it now?
Hockey players from a leading girls' school in Colombo are being debarred them from playing in the elle team. Earlier this same school prevented basketball players from playing netball.
Two missing
A dinner was held for the British commentators by a local, with two failing to turn up. One wonders why.
Exchange of words
A senior official of the Cricket Board was seen having a heated exchange of words at the SSC ground with John Snow, a reputed cricketer. This senior official who is a selector too is coming forward to contest a post at the AGM to be held at the end of this month. How come he could contest this post being a selector. This same official had wanted a leading fast bowler to buy a ticket for the third Test and has spoken in a bad manner, taking the powers to his hand, saying its business time now.
How come
One wonders how a schoolboy cricketer with a suspect bowling action, got selected to go on the tour to Australia. Has he changed his action to get selected or was it a favoured one, since he belongs to a school from Kotte which has a powerful hand behind it.
Taken for a ride
Minister Lakshman Kirella's assertion only a few days ago demonstrates his insecurity when he says that he comes down hard on errant National Sports Association (NSA). Why are some favoured NSAs allowed to continue with impunity of the sports law, the apex of our sports. The National Olympic Committee (NOC) held its AGM before the NSAs elected their officers for 2001/2002 ensuring the election of the NOC officers, president and secretary. This they did by lavishing international funds on those who voted for them for another four years. Disgustingly, the NOC president has linked its organization to promote tourism with a view to placating the minister. How shallow can one get? If that is the trend then we all should pray for justice once again. Minister espouses the Kettarama refurbishment as a 'feather in his cap'. The former Director serves on the organization headed by the Minister's handpicking TM, a new face on the block. What do we do - another shafting of the Sports Law.
A spent force
Dual "B" Buddies and a spent force flying servicemen feverishly canvassing to dislodge a proven powerful doer to be at the helm of Nassu. Reasons not to have this independent and fearless individual are those appointed as national coach through the back door; national pool for saf trials and training, includes only a rainbow chance of four presently training. Waterpolo team visiting abroad given national titles for club participation. The most bizzare is that one of the "B" sibblings attempting to be national champions by disqualifying others. If that is the case the servicemen's election should be pursued vigorously!
What a way to cheat
This happened at a premier Division I cricket match, played between a leading club in Colombo and newcomers Navy. The 12th man in this match from the Colombo Club was allowed to bowl with no objections raised by the umpires and on a protest the Colombo Club was not taken to task but the Captain was suspended for playing in three matches and debarred to captain the team for 2 years.
No rights
How come two cricket clubs in Galle and Matara districts are allowed to send their representatives to vote at the AGM of the Cricket Board on March 31 The reas on debarring them is that according to Rover their clubs AGM's had not been held as yet. Over to you the Secretary of the Sports Ministry who will be conducting this AGM.

DSS are firm favourites

By S.M.D. Sirisena
St. Benedict's take the field firm favourites against D.S. Senanayake College in their tenth big match at C.C.C. Ground on March 30 and 31.

This season Bens were beaten by St. Anne's College Kurunegala while D.S. Senanayake College had no wins for the season, lost to Prince of Wales and St. Sebastians.

Last nine years both teams could not produce a result but this year Bens can break ten-year jinx. St. Benedict's led by fourth-year coloursman Vivosh Fernando. He scored over 350 runs and his deputy is J.A. Priyantha, medium pace bowler who has taken 52 wickets. His best bowling figures are 6 for 16 against St. Anne's.

The Bens will heavily depend on their most experienced batsman Mohamed Ajmeer who has scored over 700 runs with four fifties. He will be supported by Lasitha Hettiarachchi, who has knocked two centuries, one against Royal (106 not out) and another against St.. Anne's (106 not out). Hettiarachchi is the only player to knock centuries for Bens. This season's opening batsmen Shahen Perera, Amila Sudesh and Nalim Perera are expected to play support roles in the batting.

The Bens have a good bowling attack in Shahen and J.A. Priyantha. Priyantha has bowled with a lot of fire and has taken 52 wickets while Shahen Perera has taken 50 wickets. Shahen's best bowling figures are 6 for 56 against Ananda.

Surendra Illangage, the stumper of the side has accounted for 56 victims with his acrobatic feats behind the stumps - 28 catches and 27 stumpings. D.S. Senanayake College led by Ranjula Sumesh will be deputised by Amila Dharmapriya. Coloursman aggressive Kanchana Gunawardana scored over 750 with four fifties. His highest individual score was 78 against Dharmashoka. The other players of promise in the D.S.S. batting line-up are coloursmen Milinda de Silva, Pasidu Liyanaarachchi, Nadika Wickmasingha and Idunil Abeywickrama.

Tharindu Perera and Panjaka Rajahetti will open the attack. Tharindu has taken 35 wickets. His best bowling figures are 7 for 6 against Kalutara Vidyalaya.

Their bowling will be strengthened by medium pace skipper Ranjula Sumesh, medium pace Udara Waruna, 5 for 36 against St. Joseph's. Right arm off spinner Pasidu Liyanaarachchi is the most successful bowler of the side. He has taken 48 wickets against Dharmaraja with a match bag of 9 for 84.

St. Benedict's: From Virosh Fernando (Captain), Mohamed Ajmeer, Lasitha Hettiaarachchi, Mahesh Nalain Perera, Amila Sudesh, Shahen Perera, J.A. Priyantha, Jeremy Saverimuthupille, Mohamed Imran, Surendra Illangage, Lasantha Perera, Lahiru Jayampathi and Asoka Ramachndran.

D.S. Senanayake College: Form Ranjula Sumen (Captain), Amila Dharmapriya, Pasidu Liyanaarachchi, D.B. Vinodh, Nadeeka Wickramasingha, Idunil Abeywickrama, Milinda de Silva, Kanchana Gunawardana, Udara Waruna, Yasith Mihiranga, Taridu Perera, Panjaka Rajahetti, Sudeera Soysa, Navin Sumithipala and Dinesh Manjula.

Rathnavali champions

Rathnavali House retained the Linton Kuruppu Challenge Shield when they emerged champions at the Inter-House Sports Meet of Sujatha Vidyalaya, Nugegoda held at the Chandra Silva Stadium, Rajagiriya on International Women's Day which fell on March 8.

Principal of Sujatha Vidyalaya Mrs. L.A.H. Ariyapperuma speaking on the occasion said that she was thankful to the management of Sujatha Vidyalaya for promoting sports in the school as sports develop a balanced mind in a balanced body.

Chief Guest Dr. Sunil Navaratne, Secretary Ministry of Samurdhi and Youth Affairs, said that Sujatha has maintained a very high standard in academic studies and extra-curricular activities. "Sujatha has a staff of very high quality and the fact that they have gone in a big way for computer studies shows that they are moving in the correct direction," pointed out Dr. Navaratne.

The Guest of Honour was Mr. Gamini Abeykoon, Deputy Director General Entertainment and Youth Affairs. The performances of Ruvindra Senanayake, Wasana Serasinghe, Mekala Amaratunga, Diloki Makalande, Keshani Wijekoon and Savini Amarasinghe are but some of the feats worthy of mention at the meet.

Rathnavali House retained the title which they won last year. Kalyani House were second and Swarnapali House third at a well organised meet.

Sri Rahula bowling vs Sumangala batting

The last of Kandy's big matches gets underway next Friday and Staurday at the Asgiriya Stadium.

This match has not been played year in and year out because of some disagreement between the school authorities. It is hoped that all that is now so much water under the bridge.

Wariyapola Sumangala MV has won two of the twelve matches played so far, while Sri Rahula has yet to get on the board.

Sri Rahula fared quite creditably in the games they played this season. Playing in Division II, they drew with schools such as Trinity, Royal and St. John's Panadura, Devananda and Ananda Sastralaya inter alia. Upul Weerasekera, a third year player leads them. He has scored quite heavily though a century has eluded him. Vice captain Chintaka Ratnayake (over 500 runs and 40 wickets) is one of the key players.

Runs can also be expected from Samitha Fernando (young but technically good), the sole centurion Nimantha Priyadarshana, Damakage and the Kumaras, Dhanushka and Chananandana, who open the batting.

Left arm pacie Buddika Gunasena opens the bowling along with Damakage, and for support there is C. Kumara. The star of the attack is left arm spinner who has taken 6 wickets against Devananda. Off spinners Ratnayake and Fernando are the other main bowlers. Wicket keeper is Samaradivakara.

Wariyapola Sumangala who play in Division III have scored heavily on many occasions. A fifth year player Dhanushka Tennekoon captains them. He has topped the 1000 mark and also scored four hundreds. He bowls off spinners.

Another off spinner, Roshan de Silva, a middle order bat and good close-in fielder, is the deputy. Among the other run-getters are Thilina Siyambalagahakotuwa, who has a hundred, Indika Karunatilleke, Sanjeeva Prasad and Balasuriya.

Priyashantha, Prasad and Balasuriya form the pace attack. Leg spinner Waruna Wijeratne leads the spin attack. He has over 35 wickets with a best of 7/32. The Sumangala side has quite a few off spinners. Sameera Priyadarshana, medium pace, is another useful bowler.

Two days of interesting cricket are on the cards. As to the result, it could be in the lap of the weather Gods.

Sri Rahula: Upul Weerasekera (Capt), Chintaka Ratnayake, Nuwan Pieris, Madusanka Damakage, Nimantha Priyadarshana, Buddika Gunasena, Lalinda Samaradivakara, Samitha Fernando, Maduka Gunawardena, Dhanushka Kumara, Chananandana Kumara, Vindika Prasanna, Priyantha Ratnayake, Asanka Kariyawasam, Chandana Weerapana.

Wariyapola Sumangala: Dhanushka Tennekoon (Capt), Roshan de Silva, Pushpakumara Priyashantha, Waruna Wijeratne, Damith Balasuriya, A.K. Abeyratne, Thilina Siyambalagahakotuwa, Indika Karunatilleke, Sanjeeva Prasad, Janaka Samarasinghe, Sameera Priyadarshana, Kosala Dasanaike, W.B. Senanayake, Asanka Kumara.


Football fever is set to sweep the island

By Ruth Sutton
Cricket, very obviously holds the monopoly on the attention of the nation at present. But hold on to your seats and prepare yourselves for a football frenzy as the National team gears up for its World Cup campaign. Boosted by a recent injection of FIFA funds, and under the guidance of world class Brazilian coaches, the national squad is rapidly maturing into a force to be reckoned with among the SAFF countries.

With the father and son coaching team, George and Marcus Fereira, the team has successfully fought off the might of India on two occasions to win the coveted SAFF Cup. Professor Marcus Fereira, an instructor from the Brazilian Academy of Football was commissioned with his father by FIFA to work with the Sri Lankan team in 1993. This involvement resulted in Sri Lanka's winning the 1995 SAFF Cup which he hails as a "huge achievement" and to the credit of the whole team. After working in numerous other countries, the FFSL invited the Fereiras back to Sri Lanka last year to take the coaching reins once more, and the victory at the SAFF tournament in the Maldives last May is testament to the success of this Brazilian/Sri Lankan formula. The team has also performed well in international friendlies, most notably the match against Vietnam in August 2000 in a stadium of 150,000 packed to the limit.

This is a country full of talented footballers, agree team manager Senior Superintendent Harold Anthony, ex-national footballer, and FFSL Senior Vice Chairman Joseph Anandarajah. So I am forced to wonder once again, why is it that Sri Lanka has not embraced football given all of the positive points above, and the fact that it is the world's best loved game?

Coach Fereira sums it up in one sentence, "here everyone, eats, sleeps and breathes cricket," he says. This has created a very sheltered market for sponsors, advertisers and broadcast networks who recognise that giving air time and funding to cricket will always be a safe option. To promote football is something of a risk, and this has lead to less coverage and therefore less awareness or popularity in the game. This subsequently evolves in to a state where there is little demand for football, thus the stakes in getting involved as an investor are even higher, and the vicious cycle continues.

However, Mr. Fereira points enthusiastically to the success they have had despite very limited support and states emphatically that "there is real quality here". Given the opportunities, facilities and easy access to viewing high calibre football, he feels sure that Sri Lankans would be eager to make football an integral part of the Island's life and culture.

His eyes light up when he tells me about the Sri Lanka vs India SAFF match. "There was a football fever in the island at that time," he says, and this is a source of hope for him. He looks forward to the international friendly on Wednesday, March 28 against Cambodia (a warm up to the World Cup Qualifiers) and is confident of an excellent performance. Sri Lanka takes on Thailand and Lebanon in the first round next month.

The obstacles in the way of getting Sri Lanka on the world football map, and popular at home cannot be overcome by excellent coaching and talent alone. The infrastructure of the FFSL is highly developed and maintained by dynamic, well motivated managers, but the federation is struggling in trying to implement organisational improvements at the club level; the clubs and regional teams being the life blood and untapped resource of national football.

There are football federation representatives working across the country who scout for talent, coach youngsters, promote football programmes in schools and the wider community and set up youth football projects. Their work, however, is frustrated by the insufficient infrastructure of the clubs, and the inadequacy of the facilities. A weakness of promotional organisation and general efficacy of the systems at a club level leads to a lack of investment, coverage and awareness. This in turn leads to less coaching, training and interest, and the standards begin to drop. It is the same vicious cycle, repeated at club level.

A new Gold Project award of $400,000 as part of a FIFA development programme (of which Sri Lanka are one of the first recipients) will hopefully be the catalyst to turning this around. Results however, cannot be instant, and SSP Anthony, although optimistic, knows that it is a matter of being patient, and stresses the importance of nurturing young footballers. "It is a long process from coaching a promising 12-year-old to forming a world class player," he says.

Mr. Anandarajah is also the Deputy Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the AFC and a member of the National Associations Committee of FIFA. His list of credentials is impressive, and his proven results do not disappoint. He has been instrumental in securing funding (working closely with lawyer Manilo Fernando, Asia Football Federation Vice President, member of FlFA's Legal Committee, and major investor in the team) and has headed up the work on the Gold Awards. The funds from the award will be put into all facets of football, from buildings, facilities, marketing and coaching. 

The new FFSL headquarters is currently being built and is scheduled for completion in June. It is hoped (and is entirely possible) that Pele, Michel Platini, or FIFA President Joseph Blatter may be in attendance at the opening. That would give the game much needed publicity, and would bring Sri Lanka into the limelight on the international football stage.

Mr. Anandarajah remarks on the correlation in Europe and the Americas between a growing economy and the burgeoning football "business" as it has now become. He talks about the hero status of the European football stars and about their ability to command outrageous salaries and transfer fees. Without dreaming of dealing in such ludicrous amounts of money as the Europeans do, he would like to see Sri Lankan football move into the professional arena whereby the players can be paid substantially more and thus become full time footballers.

He is also disappointed that the European club giants are noticeably absent in focusing their interest in Southern Asia. The large clubs in England, France and Holland (among many others) frequently scout for talent and hire players from West Africa and Eastern Europe and actively fund and develop football at all levels in these countries. The players that are trained at the well equipped European projects often go on to play for their country, thus raising the overall standard of the game. Mr. Anandarajah hopes that with the Gold award, they may be able to secure some more quality coaching and marketing from overseas.

The dedication of the team, coaches and managers to attain international standards is not in question, "but what is needed", says Fereira, "is proper support and respect from the media and corporate Sri Lanka" and some negotiation of rates surrounding TV coverage. Football here is "like a baby inside the mama's belly", he continues. The potential is there, but correct support, funding and guidance is essential to ensure that it safely reaches childhood and continues to develop. 

The commitment of the coach, players, managers and officials leaves me in no doubt that the future of Sri Lankan football could be a glorious one. As I leave the FFSL building, I am left with the distinct feeling that if this industry could run on sheer enthusiasm and determination alone, these men would be making cricket's ruling bodies jealous and have the country asking "cricket... what's that about then?"

Team Mobil - A new look

Saturday March 3 was another ordinary morning in Colombo. But at No. 24, Cambridge Place in Colombo, a hive of activity heralded the launch of a new look Team Mobil. 

The hush hush atmosphere was deliberately orchestrated by Team Mobil Manager Mohan Perera with the occasion open only to the Team Mobil drivers and carefully selected support staff and the media.

Interestingly enough what we saw was not just a new team but a young team shepherd by the stalwart maestro of the Track, Rohan de Silva. Not easily forthcoming, Rohan was coaxed to expand on the mission that was being undertaken. 

And what unfolded was the determination of Team Mobil to invest and encourage youth to take to Motorsport. The mantle has now passed on to daring young colts such as Sheran Cooke, S.A. Harsha, S.A. Duminda, Darin Weerasinghe, Harsha De Silva, Prasanna Munasinghe, Dinesh Jayawardena and Lakmal Silva. 

More seasoned campaigners are of course Randy Batcho, Mahen Thambiah, Sheran Fernando, Dan Dissanayake, Upul Perera, Nihal Weerasinghe, Dinal Peiries, Romani de Silva and the Flying Colonel Ravi Mayadunne.

Rohan himself will nurture the team, while Shehara de Silva forming a father/daughter combination will fly from the UK to run in one of the major events and create a cynosure as the only lady driver - clearly a vibrant rose among formidable thorns. Into this grand design comes two other big guns, Romani de Silva and Sheran Fernando. Romani is cool as a cucumber in his sleek formulas or classy stock cars. Sheran revels in his Honda V-Tec where his roaring runs at Mahagastota have been much talked about.

What clearly stood out in the composition of this Team was a sense of commaderie and unity. This was very apparent in the technical and material support that every team member receives. With honed-in technical support in the hands of veterans Bri Ponnambalam and Suren Cooke. Every member is assured of excellent prepreparation, as well as race fitness in the paddocks before the events and many other advantages such as accommodation.

One other story doing the rounds is the Ford Formula Fleet assembled by Mobil in their stables at Wattala. Access to this beautiful line up is strictly offbound to all but a few key persons. 

Reports are that the new silver, red and blue livery of these fine machines are thought to be in a class of their own. No other team boasts such purpose built racing cars for our tracks.

And so the stage is set. As the season unfolds there will surely be one team to beat and by all indications Team Mobil is ready and rearing to go.

Motor fans will better watch out for this sleek new Team Mobil - they are sure to raise the dust in this years motoring calendar.

First to get a life ban

By Gamini Perera
Suspended for life. Banned for life. These are statements used quite liberally in the local football scene these days. 

With two footballers been meted out life bans for alleged offences against a referee, these words came into common use. The offenders are now seeking clemency by appealing to the Football Federation. 

This may be the first occasion that two players have been banned for life or suspended for life, in the long and chequered history of the sport in Sri Lanka, which dates back to 1939. 

This writer's memory, at this juncture, goes 33 years back to 1968. In that memorable year, the then controlling body for football in Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Football Association charged the Secretary of the Association, P.M.S. Wijesunderam for neglect of duty and the misuse of US$3000. Wijesunderam, an efficient, knowledgeable and a methodical administrator was tried by the entire council of the Association and suspended from football and football management for life.

In defence of Asgiriya

There is a story (probably apocryphal) gaining ground that the Asgiriya stadium is a hoodoo venue as far as Sri Lankan cricket is concerned. To believe this would be most unjust. Further, this theory flies in the face of the evidence. To be sure, the Sri Lankan team has fared disastrously at Asgiriya on some occasions. One's mind goes back to New Zealand's win in 1984, the innings defeat inflicted by the Aussies in 1983 and, more recently, the Waqar Younis (11-119) led demolition by Pakistan in 1994. In fact, there had been an earlier thrashing caused by the distructively potent spin of Abdul Qadir and Tauseef Ahmed. 

Taking a look at the brighter side, the 216 run partnership for the 4th wicket between Roy Dias (106) and Duleep Mendis (124) stands out. Can one forget that epic stand of 335 for the first wicket between our present openers, Jayasuriya (188) and Atapattu (207 n.o.) against Pakistan last year. 

If Sri Lankan success is the criterion for judging the effectiveness or otherwise of a Test venue, Asgiriya probably falls below expectations - the flip side of the coin is that two of the most absorbing, and tension-filled Test matches have been played in Kandy. I refer firstly to last year's Test against the South Africans which the visitors won by a mere handful of runs. That fascinating 80 odd by Ranatunga, which brought Sri Lanka so close to victory and yet so far, tended to focus the mind away from the intensity of the conflict.

Coming to last week's Test, the atmosphere at Asgiriya on that final morning could have been cut with a knife. There were oohs and aahs every time the ball beat the bat or whenever the batsman groped uncertainly and nicked. The greatly-relieved applause that broke out when Hick or White found the boundary was all grist to the 'Barmy Army' mill. The battle waged on the final morning was furious and not entirely free of incidents. It was gripping, would that Hitchcock were there.

One forgotten but very salient fact is that the pitches at Asgiriya have contributed in large measure to the closeness of the contests. The track at Asgiriya was wholly playable even on the final day. It also produced a scintillating hundred by Jayawardena, a slightly fortuitous century by Nasser Hussain and an enthralling 95 by Sangakkara. It couldn't have been that bad. The moral is obvious to all but those who refuse to accept it. Good cricket can only be played on good tracks. If a track starts turning as early as the first morning, fair-skinned batters in particular are bound to struggle and in consequence the dice would be heavily loaded against them. If the track tends to crumble, the match would be a short lived affair and it would be dismissed from the cricket connoiseur's mind equally rapidly. Aubrey Kuruppu

Exclusive T.V. Channel for Sports coverages

Sri Lanka does not receive proper coverage of sports activities of the world. Even when Sri Lanka participates in sports no live coverage is always provided. Even important local events are not shown live. We have cricket, soccer, hockey, volleyball, boxing, motor racing, athletics etc. that could be covered by this telecast. 

Sports activities all over the world keep on increasing. More and more nations are involved in international sports events. 

With the usual daily news bulletin a few sports items are mentioned. Sometimes Sri Lankans overseas engagements are not even mentioned. 

To cover up this inadequacy, it is best if a separate exclusive T.V. channel could be set apart for the purpose either by the Rupavahini or other T.V. channel or a new one started by a new company. 

There is everyday some international sports events taking place in the world over, like Test cricket, one day cricket world cups, soccer, rugby, motor racing and boxing etc. There are more than enough items for a full days coverage. So selected important events may be telecast live. There will be very good sponsorship and plenty of advertisements, even diverted from other channels. This will be of immense benefit to the young sportsmen besides engagement for the sports loving public and fans. The disadvantage of showing half live and recorded coverage could be overcome through full live coverage by this channel. V.K.B. Ramanayake Maharagama.

Sponsorship for golf 

A three-year agreement has been entered into between Union Assurance Ltd., and Royal Colombo Golf Club recently for sponsorship.

The agreement extends from tee to green to clubhouse, and contributes towards the RCGC's on-going programme to upgrade its golf course and clubhouse."We are very happy to have the opportunity of going into partnership with the Golf Club. In addition to promoting a sport, we are indirectly supporting economic growth in the country." explained CEO UAL Mr. Sarath Wickramanayake.

"This is the first time in the hundred years during which we have been in the present location that the Golf Club has embarked upon a development programme of this nature. It is a huge task and is an expensive undertaking that will benefit not only our members but the country as well. We have to compete in a world where golf is increasingly becoming an important source of income to the country in terms of tourism and we must compete with countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia who are in the area. I think this development programme will make it possible for us to do so," declared Mr. Haris Serasinghe.

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