A recent newspapers article which discussed about the Southern Pentangular being a big draw, made interesting reading. But I think is rather unfair to claim that Manilal Fernando was responsible to our country to get the opportunities to play with other ountries and also to say it was Manilal who got the openings for our [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

When Ceylon became unbeaten football champions


A recent newspapers article which discussed about the Southern Pentangular being a big draw, made interesting reading. But I think is rather unfair to claim that Manilal Fernando was responsible to our country to get the opportunities to play with other ountries and also to say it was Manilal who got the openings for our officials’ coaches and referees to attend various football programmes conducted by AFC and FIFA.

Further it is also incorrect to mention that in the good old days unlike now, Sri Lanka played only against Indian States.

It was in the period 1960 to 1970, when India was the Asian Champions in soccer that we played with their state teams which were bigger in size and population , represented by their star national players in the calibre of Banargee , Goswami , Thangarah, Amzath Khan , Sarmath Khan and to name a few.

To be frank Manilal appeared to football Administration as a stranger in 1980. Sri Lanka as a football playing nation participated in various international tournament in 1970’s , under the leadership of men like Senator M.D. Kitchilan , Magistrate B.G.S. David , Snr DIG Van Twest and Dustan de Alwis. During this period we played in the Asian Cup Soccer tournament held in Kuwait, 16th Merdeka tournament in Malaysia, Pesta Sukan soccer competition in Singapore, Djakarta Football Tournament in Indonesia and King Cup in Thailand. I had the privilege of playing in all these tournaments against top countries in Asia like Japan, S. Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand to name a few. In fact, brilliant coaches and referees in the calibre of V. Nadarajah, Albert Fernando, Neville Abeygunawardane, Lawrence Fernando, Perrinpanayagam, Basil Jayawardana, E.S. Chellathamby and M.T. Fernando were trained in European, South American and Asian Countries during 1960’s.

It was the 13th of September , 1970 and the lion flag of the Sugathadasa Stadium fluttered sky high in front of over 40000 Sri Lankans who stood upto greet Ceylon’s proudest moment in soccer. After participating in many football tournaments here and abroad, Ceylon triumphed for the first time to become unbeaten champions in the Southern Quadrangular Soccer Tournament
The famous soccer tournament in early years known as the Southern Pentangular Soccer Tournament was converted to a Quadrangular one in 1970. The inaugural tournament of this nature was held in 1961 in Bangalore, 1962 in Madras, 1963 in Colombo, 1964 in Andra Pradesh, 1967 in Colombo and in 1970 again in Colombo.

In 1961 Ceylon team took part for the first time and the side was led by C.S. Fernando. The others represented the team were M.M. Hassimdeen , M.A. Ameer , A.H.A. Hussain , P.H.S. Albert , Edward Wickremasuriya , Mahinda Aluvihare, Ratnapala Aluvihare, P.D. Sirisena , T.N. Hajireen , Piyadasa Perera, Bagous Sourjah , S. Ignatius , A. Vandergert , S.M. Noor and W.S. Boteju. Mr. H. Hamid accompanied the team as manager. This Tournament was won by Mysore with Andhra Pradesh as runner-up. In the encounter against Madras S.M. Noor scored a hat-trick and we beat Madras 3- 1.

In 1963 for the first time this tournament was held in Colombo Peter Ranasinghe led the team. In the opening game our side did well to beat Kerala 5-2. However due to an injury Peter Ranasinghe was forced to leave the field and C.S. Fernando took over the captaincy. Although Andhra Pradesh won the Championship the Ceylon team had the distinction of drawing the match against them one all.
The 1964 tournament in India was won by Andhra Pradesh. In 1967 the best mid field player Mahinda Aluvihare led our team which was played in Sugathadasa Stadium. Our team won the first two games, beat Kerala FA 3-0 and Madras FA 3-0. In a hard fought battle we lost to Mysore by one goal to nil. Mysore won the Championship and Ceylon team was runners-up.

In 1970 the Ceylon team led by Edward Wickremasuriya beat the strong Madras FA team by five goals to one and become the hottest favourites for the title. In the other matches played Ceylon beat Kerala 3-1, Mysore 1-0 and in the (Second round) beat Madras5-0, Kerala 5-0 and Mysore 3-1. The superiority of our team was shown in the first round itself when we beat the strong Mysore team one-nil.
Mysore came here as favourites with a big reputation after winning the All India Inter-State Championship with many national players like Amzard Khan, Shardar Khan and others. In fact Ceylon won all six matches played and also got an impressive tally of 22 goals for and 3 goals against in the whole tournament. The Minister of Sports and Parliamentary Affairs Late K.B. Ratnayake was undoubtedly the proudest and the happiest person present in the Sugathadasa Stadium, only three months since he assumed office Ceylon bagged the biggest prize in Soccer – “From now onwards let us march forward from success to success” these were the encouraging words offered by the Minister Ratnayake when he presented the Champion-Cup to Ceylon Skipper Edward Wickremasuriya. The other lion-head players who brought fame and credit to Sri Lanka and received their awards from the Minister were Lionel Pieris (Goal Keeper) M.A. Ameer, Hamzath , Muslafir , Rajasingham , (Backs) Edward Wickremasuriya , and Marikar (Midfield) , Subhani Hassimdeen , P.H.S. Albert , Nelson Perera, Amidon (Forwards). The Stand – Byes were Piyadasa Perera, Judy Preena, Methananda, Appiah, Chandradasa Perera and Ananda Peries. Finally the Minister congratulated the coach Lawrence Fernando for having produced a champion team. The others who shared the joy and happiness of this historical event were the President of the Ceylon Football Association late Senator M.D. Kitchilan and the most brilliant and able administrator V.K. Arumugam – the Secretary.

I had the privilege of playing in the right extreme position in all the six matches and had a hand in most of the goals scored, thereby adjudged as the Best Player of the tournament.

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