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10th March 2002

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Peace through netball 

By Tania Fernando
The obstacles they face are many, but even with the little resources they have they are determined to improve their game and keep playing in order to get better and gain more experience.

The netball teams from the North and East are hoping that with the signing of the peace accord this would give them an opening and an opportunity to get the funds they lack and even someone to sponsor their teams. The lack of funds and sponsors has resulted in these girls not having the practice they need in order to compete with the top teams. 

"Most of the girls live about 15 20 km away and they cant get back after practices because of transport problems", Mr. M A Justin Perera, the Trincomalee team coach who is also the Secretary of the Trincomalee District Netball Association, said.

He said that he started the netball team in the year 2000 and they have participated at all matches after 2000. "They are talented girls and they need to practice everyday", he said adding that the biggest obstacle they face is the lack of funds and no one wanting to come forward to sponsor them.

Harshani Kanchana Perera, the Captain of the Trinco team said that most of her teammates come from very poor families and they find it hard to survive. However, since their families want them to play the game, they even borrow money and try to give their kids an opportunity to improve. "They need about Rs. 30 per day just for travelling and we need to practice at least four times a week".

"If we have practices in the evening the girls have no way of going back home, and its very tiring since they have to go far and there are no places for them to stay too", she said. 

The Vice Captain of the team 20-year old Jeevani Prasangika, said that with both her parents not working she was finding it hard to spend Rs. 30/- for travelling on a daily basis. "I have to depend on my brother who supports all of us". She went on to say that even money for their netball costume was given by the coach.

Meanwhile, the team from Jaffna said that they don't even have a proper place to practice and their other problem is also the lack of funds.

Thavarajah Chandramathi, the Captain of the Jaffna team said that it was difficult to get the girls together as most of their parents were only keen that their kids concentrate on their studies.

The mode of transport for them is their pushbike; they have to ride as far as 15 miles back and forth to go for practices. Going to school or University and then for netball practices was not as easy task.

"We used to practice only twice a month, as it was difficult for the girls because of the many checkpoints, but now since things are more relaxed we can practice more often", she said,

The Vice Captain of the team Mythili Poobalasingham said that her teammates too found it hard to find the time to practice. "Most of them are studying and have to travel far since we don't have a proper practice ground".

Neeraja Richard, who plays for the team was adjudged the most outstanding player from the outstations. Neeraja who was also acting as interpreter said that she was the captain for the university team.

She said that her teammates could not find money for their uniforms and that too was found with great difficulty. "The girls come because they are keen to play and their determination to improve the game and not only concentrate on studies".

Meanwhile, the coach of the Jaffna Team, Ms. A F J Rubesingham who is also the District Sports Officer of the Jaffna Netball Association, said that since parents give preference to the education of their children it is difficult to practice on a regular basis. "The security situation and the many checkpoints were another cause of anguish for the parents, but now that things have improved, I am hoping that the game would improve too".

She went on to say that the team needs more experience and the only way to get experience is to play more matches, but with the lack of funds its not easy for them to travel out of Jaffna to play matches.

"I hope with peace that the sport too will develop", said Ms. Rubesingham. The road for improvement is going to be an uphill task; yet they are all keen on improving and not let obstacles stand in their way. 'Playing the game to their best and improving' is their motto. 

The teams from Jaffna and Trincomalee participated at the just concluded Mercantile Netball Tournament in Colombo. 

Although they did not win, they say they are happy for the opportunity to play against the others.

Mason Mixture sponsored the tournament for the 13th year and the Chief Guest at the opening was Mrs. Charmain Kiriella. Minister Johnston Fernando was the Chief Guest at the Prize Giving which was held on Wednesday.



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