These days when football values and standards have declined and there are so much bluff and bluster passing off as real skills and performances. It is refreshing to recall the high standards achieved many, many decades ago. Back in the days before the present downward trend in local football there were several truly great players [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Great Footballers of the past

Some of the distinguished players of the golden era

These days when football values and standards have declined and there are so much bluff and bluster passing off as real skills and performances. It is refreshing to recall the high standards achieved many, many decades ago.

Back in the days before the present downward trend in local football there were several truly great players who dazzled before lakhs of frenzied fans.

If we are to achieve at least a semblance of the honours that we achieved in football, particularly in the nineteen sixties, our aim should be to draw a proper – short term plan to build up the national competitions – a long term programme to produce quality footballers from the grass root level. Through, I am not an expert or maestro in football with a little knowledge obtained during the last six decades. I am in a position to submit a comprehensive plan and programme and prepared to seriously get involved to the cause if invited.

I wish to give a brief history of Sri Lanka football and the past players who contribute to the sports. The journey that began in 1880s as a leisure sport grew and developed to Association Football in 1939 – fifty nine years later in the year 1990, when the history of the game is recorded football in Sri Lanka would have had a hundred and ten years of uninterrupted existence, and future to its credit, seventy five years of Association Football – controlled, regulated football in accordance with the charter – code and ethics of the Federation International de Football Associations (The FIFA)

In fact when other nations had to draw the curtain down on domestic and international sports competitions in the respective countries with the break of the Second World War in 1939, we not only geared ourselves to confirm to Association Football, but to keep on playing the game with no signs of major disruption what so ever. Perhaps we were fortunate in not really experiencing the frontline disasters of the war.

Standing (L to R): Subhani Hassimdeen, S.P. De Silva, John Fernando , Rajasingham, Wanigaratna, M.A.V. Fernando, Hamzath, Judy Preena, T.S. Bucker , T. Halideen, Amidon Seated (L to R) : S.M.Noor, A.Zainulabdeen, P.H.S. Albert, P.D. Sirisena, M.M. Hassimdeen, Neville Abeyagunawardane(Coach) , Mahinda Aluvihara, M.A. Ameer, Edward Wickremasuriya, Piyadasa Perera, Bagoos Sourjah. - Absent : Lionel Peiris.

The game of football for me, has been a way of life since my formative years as a lad in school playing, watching, later got involved in coaching and administration. Football is one of the truly an international sport and its popularity is reflected in the enormous appeal it has, amongst the common people in particular. It is therefore I thought, when the World Cup football Tournament is to commence in Brazil in a couple of days, to expose some of the great exponents of soccer in this tiny little island of ours.

I am aware that naming some of the greatest players, both past and present is not going to be an easy task for me to pick and choose particularly when there have been quite a few left out, who would have been near equals, if not equals in my view. My selections will be based on few barefoot players and many booted players during the period 1930 to 1970, whom I have seen in action, heard their football history through reliable sources and with most of them I have played, also taking into account their individual skills, soccer, sense and performances.

Since there is a long history of our football, I embarked to mention only some of the prominent, great footballers and the household names during the period 1930s to 1970s.

Some of pioneers and renowned footballers who donned the Ceylon’s maroon and gold jersey from mid 1930s to mid 1950s in the initial years were: A. Akbar, J. Deen, T. Johar, B.A. Miskin, R. Dias, Don Jeseph, George Dias, M.A. Hassen, Mantara, B.H.M. Preena, U. Premadasa, S. Ranatunga, S. Sabreen, S. Razak, Jeevaratnam, Munna, Darmasena, T.K. Buhar, Abid, Marthelis, Naheem, Hassimdeen, Albert Fernando, Vipulasena, Chelliah to name a few.

In 1952, the Ceylon Football Association launched on its most ambitious undertaking – the inaugurations and organisation of the Asian Quadrangular Soccer Tourney between India, Pakistan and Ceylon. The Ceylon team: T.H. Noor (capt) , S. Munna, T.H. Soono, T. Ramasamy, Basheer Ahamad, Poddiappuhamy, Andrew Fernando, M. Sheriff, Veeriah, J. Deen, Suhood, C.S. Richard, K.S. Richard, M.T.A. Ossen, Sugathapala, Jabir, T. Bungo, Krishnarajah and five British servicemen. India became champions in this tournament.
In 1953 the second Quadrangular was held in Rangoon. The following represented Ceylon: T.H. Soona (capt), M. Sheriff, O.L.M. Haleemdeem, A.C.M. Junaid, A.C.M. Khan, T. Bongo, Basheer Ahamad, Peter Ranasinghe, K.A. Premadasa, Leo Cornelius, K. Poddiappuhamy, K.S. Richard, T.J. Azeez, Karunapala Fernando, Andrew Fernando, T.M.A. Ossen, A.R. Jainuahdeen and M.J. Laheer – winner India.

The Third Asian Quadrangular held at Calcutta in 1954. Ceylon team: M. Sheriff, J.W. Wilson, A.C.M. Khan, A.C.M. Junaid, M.B. Saldin, Peter Ranasinghe (capt) , Meedin, K.A. Premadasa, M.I.M. Laheer, T. Jaymon, T.S. Sainoon, T.M. Deen, Andrew Fernando, N.B. Hemachandra, M.T.A. Ossen, A.R. Jainulabdeen and Karunapala Fernando. Ceylon drew with India one-all, Ceylon beat Burma 2-1, lost to Pakistan 2-1. Champion India and runner-up Ceylon.

The Fourth Asian Quadrangular was held in Dacca – East Pakistan in1955. Ceylon side M.M. Hassimdeen, G. Amarasinghe, A.C.M. Khan, D.M. Panditha, T.H. Soono, T. Ramasamy, Peter Ranasinghe (capt), K.A. Premadasa, Leo Cornelius, T.S. Jaymon, T.S. Sainoon, T.M. Deen, K.D. Somapala, Dennis Peiris, Andrew Fernando, M.T.A. Ossen and Karunapala Fernando. Champions – India.

In 1958 the Ceylon team went on a soccer tour to the Fareast. The Ceylon team: M.M. Hassimdeen, Ben Ferriera, Christoper Ranasinghe, M.B. Saldin, E.P. Soloman, M.P.B. Dissanayake, M.T.A. Ossen (capt), K.A. Premadasa, Eric Perera, M.A. Karunarathne, T.S. Jaymon, K.D. Somapala, T. M. Deen, Andrew Fernando, K.B. Ariyadasa, E.N. Nicholas and L. Bernarduz.

The period between 1960s – 1970s was the golden era of Sri Lanka football, where many foreign clubs visited our soil. This gave thousands of soccer crazy fans in the capital city and outstations, an opportunity to witness and enjoy the top class players in action. Zenith F.C., Neftjanik F.C., Moscow Dynamo from Russia, Spartak – Prague from Czechlovakia, Young Boys Berne from Switzerland, Madureira F.C. from Brazil and Gothenberg F.C. from Sweden. Some of elite players who played in these tuff encounters were: M.M. Hassimdeen, Piyadasa Perera, Ananda Weerasekera, Lionel Peiris, M.A. Ameer, M. Hamzath, Bagoos Sourjah, T.K. Bucker, Mahinda Aluvihara, C.S. Fernando, P.H.S. Albert, Ratnapala Aluvihare, P.D. Sirisena, K.P. Thomas, W.S. Boteju, Mariadasan, Yogara, Ahamath and to name a few.

In 1960s for the first time Ceylon won an international encounter in our soil beating the National team of Pakistan 3-1. Ceylon was led by M.M. Hassimdeen and the squad composed of the following: Lionel Peiris, Piyadasa Perera, M.A. Ameer, T.Z. Buker, B.B. Sourjah, P.H.S. Albert, S.M. Hamzath, T. Halideen, Mahinda Aluvihara, S.P. de Silva, T. Amidon, S.M. Noor, A. Zainulabdeen, P.D. Sirisena, Edward Wikramasuriya and Tudor Perera.

In 1968 the following players went on that famous European tour: Mahinda Aluvihara (capt), M.M. Hassimdeen, Lionel Peiris, M.A. Ameer, S.M. Hamzath, M.A.V. Fernando, P.H.S. Albert, S.P. de Silva, Edward Wickramasuriya, Amidon, S.M. Noor, A. Zainulabdeen, P.D. Sirisena, Subhani Hassimdeen, Nalin Perera, John Fernando, S. Motha and Terrance Kuruppu.

I was very fortunate to play in the golden era beside great players in the calibre of M.M. Hassimdeen, Lionel Peiris, Piyadasa, Perera, M.A. Ameer, Mahinda Aluvihara, S.P. de Silva, P.H.S. Albert, P.D. Sirisena, A. Zainulabdeen, Amidon, S.M. Noor and Edward Wickramasuriya both at club level and National level here and abroad.

Between 1959 to 1970s some of our prominent footballers participated in the prestigious Aga Khan Gold Cup Tournament held in Dacca East Pakistan were: K.B. Pussella, M.Nazar, Rathnapala Aluvihara, B.H. Sally , S. Ignatius, Nizam Hajireen, A.H.A. Hussain, R. Yogarasa, P.H.C. Kurukulasuriya, H.A. Jayatissa, T.S. Bucker, Harold Anthony, Judy Preena, Nelson Perera, Wanigaratne, Ananda Peiris, Denzil Wallas and P. Ananda.

Finally in 1970 Ceylon became unbeaten champions for the first time in the Quadrangular tournament held in Colombo beating the Indian state teams. Edward Wickramasuriya led our team; I had the privilege of playing in this tournament. Besides players in the calibre of Lionel Peiris, M.A. Ameer, Muslafeer, Rajasingham, Marrikar, Methananda, Judy Preena, Nelson Perera and K.K. Chandradasa.

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