Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic descended, it has hammered and halted the sporting action reducing it to little or no activity. The Sunday Times spoke to a cross-section of captains and coaches at school, club and national levels, ascertaining on how they have been coping with the situation.     Rugby Dansha Dayan, former Sri Lanka [...]


How ‘new normal’ affecting professional sports


Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic descended, it has hammered and halted the sporting action reducing it to little or no activity. The Sunday Times spoke to a cross-section of captains and coaches at school, club and national levels, ascertaining on how they have been coping with the situation.  


Danush Dayan


Dansha Dayan, former Sri Lanka 7’s captain, sounded severely affected.

“I have been out of action for close to two years now. We don’t have a team combination either. We have been working only on our fitness and gym sessions. But have to train and play as a team. Otherwise, it is going to become increasingly difficult to play against other national teams. We need at least a two months of training as a team. It has been two years now. We actually don’t know our strength and fitness levels,” he sounded worried.

Fazil Marija

The Kandy SC player also went on lamenting that they are in need of a coach and trainer to monitor them.

“I saw an article that a tournament has been confirmed for November. For that, we quickly need to assemble the team and start training as a squad. It’s a problem of lack of time for preparation too”.

Fazil Marija, the current head coach of the national 7s team, said due to the situation they did not have anything. No matches nor practices, nothing at all in Kandy. It’s especially frustrating for players because they didn’t have any games or activities. They have been working only at home and mainly for the players, it’s taking the toll.

Though rugby broke the long drought of a match between the Air Force and CH&FC last month, apart from that one-off match, rugby is yet to take off breaking the shackles.

Janitha Suranga


The virus had particularly killed all the hard work the team had devoted after the qualifying win at home versus Uzbekistan. They were sitting pretty and all set to take part at the Asian Volleyball Championship closing today (19), but only prior to their departure, a number of players had fallen ill, denying them.

The Volleyball team were the victim-in-chief with both Covid-19 and dengue striking double-trouble.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic and dengue fever struck together. Initially, on August 4, four players were identified positive, but later on, the count leaped to as many as 18 confirmed. Among the 18, exactly a dozen developing dengue fever also made matters worse,” said captain Janitha Suranga.

“We were in a good form and rhythm. Everything was pacing smoothly before this disaster and now everything is gone. We had big expectations after winning the qualification tournament since the team was in peak form. After a very long time, we had a good combination comprising young blood and senior hands. From the perspective of coaches and federations, there were a lot of expectations for us to do well in the championship. After this incident, it was only a disaster,” Suranga, also the captain of the country’s national sport, regretted.

Shehaan Dias (R) and Akalanda Peiris


Water sport was one of the hardest hit with more or less no splash in the waters. Shehaan Dias, a coach, has been punished with salaries as all and sundry.

“We are underpaid,” he said laughingly.

Reflecting on his own situation, he did concede he was financially struggling with earnings slumped to 50%.

“That is currently the norm. Others are being paid 25%. Coaches are hence struggling with their finances though they are not working much either. This is our bread and butter, so it is mentally tough,” he declared.

He feared despite swimming meets slotted from a month away, they have not got sure slots. Though there are a dozen of capable contenders without a trial, he cannot announce who will making the cut. However, for all those, they need a month to prepare. But time is not on their side, hence he did not sound in favour of it.

“I personally believe even with an under-performing child, we need to go ahead. But we certainly won’t be at our best. Given the time constraints, the wise decision would be to rule out competitions, but based on the child’s mental factor I still won’t rule out. If that would give some mental happiness, I’m in for it”.

Naming his men-tee – Akalanka Peiris – he said Peiris was supposed to be in waters during this period. Not only him, but even a few others at the Asian and South Asian level were meant to be in action.

“There is a Youth Asian Games and World Championship in December and we are way behind. Hence, in that sense, we are struggling”, he said.

Shalin de Mel


Shalin de Mel, the S. Thomas’ College cricket captain, said since it’s a lockdown they have had no way of getting together and practicing. But they do make it a point to meet on Zoom (video communication platform) to check on each other and do our fitness sessions.

De Mel and his team, the current holders of the D.S. Senanayake Memorial Shield, awarded to the winners of the prestigious Battle of the Blues encounter, have not had any training session since August 8 but are still not sick of waiting after the big match had suffered stop-start’s twice over.

“No, actually, though the match has already seen postponements twice, we are still not down or demotivated or anything as such. We are looking forward to playing the match at any given point, that’s our main goal. To keep practicing hard and deliver our best and that is our target”, the opening batsman said.

Dinesh Kumarsinghe

“Boys are all motivated for the match and for now, we have no idea as to when we would be meeting. But we are training by ourselves”,

As a captain, he had been reminding his boys to maintain physical health, to remain positive and look forward to playing the match.

Dinesh Kumarasinghe, their coach for many years’ now, answering the burning question of will the 141-year-old big match continue, strongly asserted, they as Thomians alone, are all set to go out of their way to complete it. He flatly denied rumors that the Thomians are reluctant to play and will even cooperate to play at their arch rivals’ grounds, if the situation demands.

From his camp alone, he said the college had pumped in big money for practice matches at Sooriyawewa and both the schools want this to be over and done somehow.

On the situation he added, “This is the first time in my 35-year coaching career. We have got prepared for two Royal- Thomians in the same year and postponed. And this is the third time we are trying to play inside in a year. It’s not easy. There are various aspects a coach has to look into”.

However, when the Sunday Times tried to contact Royal College for their comments on the corona-hit season, they declined to comment.


The national football team has not suffered no play entirely, because after their last two outings against Korea and Lebanon as part of their World Cup qualifications, the team led by Sujan Perera, also a goalkeeper of the side, took wings to Saudi Arabia, yesterday (18).

The sojourn stays at Saudi, for a period of fortnight for a training camp, the president of the island’s football’s federation said, the team is gearing for South Asian Football Federation Championship, due to get underway in Male, Maldives, on October 1.

Medhani Jayamanne


Athletics, though, unlike the other sports in this story, has been better off with not only minimal activity, but the athletes even returning with results.

One such athlete has been Medhaani Jayamanne, enjoying a successful season with notable wins in the next door nation India and at the last month’s World Junior Athletic Championship in Kenya.

“I’m of course all good. Since I’m lodged at the hostel by the ground, it has not caused me much adverse impact”, she said.

When top-notch athletes from the world of athletics have been falling to depression caused by the bio-bubble, she has been so far so good not falling prey to those and sounds sound about it.

Jayamanne, the niece of Olympic silver medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe, is now in rest and recuperate mode ahead of completing balance tournaments at the end of next month.

Umanga Surendra, the coach of the former, has not seen serious problems too, in the prevailing pandemic.

Sports grounds across the country are vitually empty - Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

“At how the situation stands, we don’t have much of a problem. But the frequency of ground opening is low. Torrington ground is open for practices and the sports minister has also directed for the facilities under his purview to be opened for the athletes,” said Umanga, assessing the situation.

“But two of the severe limitations has been that not all are permitted for gym sessions and so is transport. Transport is because not all athletes have the facilities to turn up for training. Hence, if the coach and their students have the means to commute, then that too, would be solved,”

Umanga, rising to the occasion, also has turned into a transport provider, making the most of his vehicle of transporting his students. But sounds sad about the situation, where only athletes based on priority of athletic meets’ getting the preference.

The Sunday Times also spoke to a sports psychologist on solutions to this health hazard.

Dr. Samantha Nanayakkara

Dr. Samantha Nanayakkara, a Sports Psychologist at the Colombo University, directed sportspersons to concentrate on acclimatising to the ‘new normal’. They need to keep on telling themselves that this is the reality and they need to accept and acclimatise. Get used to the new situation. But the problem with the sportspersons is that they don’t practice these nor do they think of these along these lines during a pandemic situation. The panacea for this is to have a strong mental ability to get used to new situations. Basically, one has to accept the reality, acclimatise to the situation and move on. Positive mindset is what matters”.

Dr. Nanayakkara, also a PhD holder, laying out the ‘dos’ and the ‘don’ts’ said, “Athletes need to be very strong in his or her physique and mental ability. Parents to coach can encourage the sportsperson. But it’s the sportsperson, who needs to accept and understand and that comes from the athlete. That also includes the concerned person avoiding negative thoughts.

Talking about a coaches’ contribution to the cause, she said a coach will have to pump in motivation. “Coach has the ability to wake up the athlete, when he or she is down and out. Both of them will have to build and maintain a very strong relationship.”

Dr. Nanayakkara, while pointing out the positive part is being overlooked, stressed it’s the same side that has to be taken to heart and ignore the negativity filling the air.

“This is also the best time to develop hobbies, engage in other non-sports activities, reading and browse the internet in a productive manner. Some sites even offer subject-specific teachings free-of-charge and webinars. In a bid to deviate themselves, they are supposed to practice these. This is what can enrich their mental ability. They need a change from their sports routine,” she concluded.

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