If Sri Lanka ever had put up a massive search to find out who the real godfathers of football are, it would be none other than those who silently contribute. Many who fall into that category are either coaches or trainers. From many of those individuals, Pathiniya Durage Sirisena, or P.D. Sirisena is a humble, [...]


The football master now only on a liquid diet

We still reminisce the ailing 'Sira's' footwork

Sirisena being recognised by the FIFA President in 2014 after then FFSL officials identified his importance

If Sri Lanka ever had put up a massive search to find out who the real godfathers of football are, it would be none other than those who silently contribute. Many who fall into that category are either coaches or trainers. From many of those individuals, Pathiniya Durage Sirisena, or P.D. Sirisena is a humble, yet household name in Football.

‘Sirisena Master’ as he is known among the younger generation and ‘Sira’ as he is fondly known by his close friends, never bothered to run behind limelight during his football career of 63 years as a player, coach and an educator of the sport. Now, at 77, the living legend of the game still remains away from publicity. Yet, ironically he is forced to confine himself to his home with poor health.

But Sirisena never takes pity of himself or his present status. That would be for the clear fact that he has made a name for himself through football and served the country as one of the renowned players ever before taking up coaching to impart his vast knowledge in the game to the future generation and more to come.

During his glorious days as a player and coach, Sirisena was an active individual with great enthusiasm. But presently the maestro of Sri Lanka Football is a weak man with a feeble body. He even cannot have his meals as he usually did. His food intakes are now confined to liquid and fed through a straw.

Sirisena’s unexpected health condition, that seems to be deteriorating day by day, was caused due to a failure in the nervous system. It is suspected that the maestro is now diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. With the present situation, Sirisena unwillingly, is confined at his private residence at No.53, Vajirawansha Mawatha, in Obeysekarapura, Rajagiriya.

Being in virtual ‘home arrest’ may come in as a difficult condition — the man, who earned high honours during his active lifetime.

He is the first Sri Lankan sportsman or probably from the whole world, to have a ground named after him while living. It was in 1987, when Ranasinghe Premadasa, the then Prime Minister of the country and a great football enthusiast, renamed the Public Ground in Maligawatte, Colombo, as the P.D. Sirisena Ground. Sirisena was unaware even at the occasion that the ground was to take his name as Sirisena was under the impression that he was invited for an event.

Then after 27 years from then, in 2014, Sirisena had the rare privilege of receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the then FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter and a reward of Rs. 500,000 when Football in Sri Lanka celebrated 75 years. Other than those two fetes, which can be considered topmost for any football stalwart, the remaining entire list of honours were self-earned by Sirisena. Even at the two occasions he was recognised 27 years apart, were mainly due to his dedication and contribution to the sport.

“It’s really hard to see my father at this status. He was never in a condition like this before, ever. My father had done an immense service to Football in Sri Lanka, but he never got the due return from the authorities except once or twice.

He just kept on training young kids, even until recent times. His genuine interest was to serve football and that was what he did when he was fit and able,” the maestro’s son, Manjula, the present coach of Saunders Football Club, said.

Sirisena had a undying bond with Saunders FC, where the home ground was Price Park, just behind his house. His glory days as a star player with Saunders FC spanned from 1956 to 1972. Sirisena was just 16-years-old when first played a major game for Saunders FC. In 1960 Sirisena hit the limelight by scoring six goals in the FA Cup final, which still stands as a record. Sirisena made his international debut in 1962 and went on to represent Sri Lanka at 35 games while leading the country at seven occasions during a span of seven years. He has also played in foreign countries by representing Decca Wanderers FC of Bangladesh in 1963 and 1965, AVC Heracles in Almelo of Holland in 1966 and 1967 and Swansea United of Wales during 1975 to 1977 before becoming a coach and advisor.

Sirisena today, with his wife at home

He coached Sri Lanka in 1976 to 1979 and 1980 to 1998, which were the good days of Sri Lanka Football. He remains as the only Sri Lankan coach to handle a foreign team when he was appointed head coach of New Radiant FC of Maldives in 1987 and the Maldives national coach in 1988. His bond with the local glamour boys Saunders FC continued as a coach for 45 years before his son Manjula took over. Sirisena is the first Sri Lankan Coaching Instructor appointed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). He also served as Director, Technical of Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL).

To mention the service Sirisena rendered to football in general and about his qualifications would take a whole newsprint or more. But the truth never dies, as many football experts admit that Sirisena was a national treasure that was hardly or never taken care of or given the due respect. Former FFSL President, Ranjith Rodrigo spoke of Sirisena with great respect.

“Undoubtedly Master is the godfather of Sri Lanka Football. Personally I feel that he and his knowledge were overlooked by the authorities. I understood it during my tenure and offered him a position of an advisor with an allowance. I also was privileged to have Master honoured during the FIFA President’s visit in 2014. But still I feel there’s a lot that Football and Sri Lanka could have gained from him. Sri Lanka will not see another Sirisena like Master in Football. Despite differences among the fraternity, we should take care of him at least now,” Rodrigo stated.

Sirisena’s accomplishments were not only limited to football. He was a fine pugilist, and was the champion of the 55kg weight category at the 1960 Amateur Boxing Nationals. But his love for Football was such, that he went on to serve the game at different capacities for 63 long years. If he had the opportunity to strike back into good shape, Sirisena would never think twice to go back to the playing field and teach young kids of what he knows in Football, but ‘will that happen’ is a major question that haunts all, who knew the Master.

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