Not keeping out of harm’s way

Violence in sports refers mostly to physical acts committed in contact sports which go beyond the normal levels expected while playing the sport. Contact sport such as American football, ice hockey, rugby football, soccer, boxing, mixed martial arts, wrestling, and water polo are vulnerable sports.
Physical violence can include intentional attempts to injure player by another player and can also include threats of physical harm or actual physical harm sustained to players. Violence is different to aggression in the sport and that which is exerted within the laws of the game. What worries in the rugby scene in Sri Lanka is not the fighting on field involving players but issues that arise from involvement of others who are not direct participants.

Rising anger and bouts of aggressive behavior has and will always be seen on the rugby field. On the other than the occasional yellow or red card has not been any major concern in on the field of rugby. This is true of both Club as well as school rugby.

What concerns most is the increase of off field violence and or aggression that is raising an ugly head. At Nittawela a few moons ago we got ourselves into the record of rugby as a gun shot was fired on the field when play was stopped for spectator violence. This has now been relegated to history as all seem to have forgotten the issue. .As we did not hear of another gunshot there is nothing to worry till somebody pays with his life.

All of a sudden we hear of three acts of violence that makes us sit up and ask questions again.
In Kandy after the Schools knock out Final between Trinity and Dharmaraja boys form Trinity who were returning to their hostel had been assaulted. Why did they get assaulted? Was it because their school won the match?. Or was it that they provoked the other. Did these boys cheer their side to their hearts content which was not well taken by the others? The matter that worries most is that this happened because the boys went to see a rugby match. I was told by reliable sources that whenever there is a match between these two schools there is violence that follows.

The Thurstan – Lalith Athulathmudali after match encounter in progress.

The end result was that around ten boys from Trinity had to be hospitalised following the assault. The fighting first started in a bus where boys from both schools were travelling. The e boys got off the bus and were then assaulted by a group that had followed in another van. All because they e went to cheer their school. Recently at Havelock Park there was a match played between Thurston College and Lalith Athulathmudali in an under 18 tournament organized by the western province. After the end of the match the Lalith ‘A’ boys were set upon by a section of the crowd or the players themselves. The LA boys took to rugby only the other day and have been enjoying a steady progress. What will the boys, the school authorities and the parents of the boys think of this new game that they are involved in.

Another off field incident was reported following the Caltex knock out final played at the Royal Complex. The incident involved Nuwan Hettiarchchi whose name has been in the news arising from controversy of release by Navy. Hettiarachchi, I understand was in the dressing room celebrating the victory of Kandy Sports Club. He was set upon by supporters of Navy in or near the dressing room. Issues need to be sorted in a civilized manner and violence is not an item in that agenda.

One thing I realized was that when you are in the area where the dressing rooms for the players and match officials are you have no chance as there are three ways you can get there. That is the tunnel form the ground, the car park or thorough the stairway to the basement. In a dressing room there is always around twenty people but the referee may have four to six and they are really in trouble though they have though they are safe dawn there.

The vulnerability was seen in two other Caltex knock out matches played at the same venue. That is the CR vs Air Force match and the Navy vs Kandy match. After both these matches a spectator walked to the field and verbally as abused the match officials. It was so easy to get to the ground. In both cases it happened to be emotionally charged over anxious parents who like to have spat at the referee.
These incidents are not good for the game and for the promotion of rugby in Sri Lanka. Violence and non tolerance has no place in the game of rugby. It has no place in the spiritual culture that this country is blessed with.

Every dog no doubt has his day and the right to bark but when the rabid one is set out there is no point in crying, “ Who let the dogs out?”

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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