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28th June 1998

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Black Sunday at Nittawela

A Correspondent from Kandy threatens: Don't write about the incident.....

By Bernie Wijesekera

What a pandemonium it turned out to be, after the Kandy S. C. - CR and FC Carlsberg trophy 'A' div. match at Nittawela last Sunday (June 21) which CR won 17 - 12.

It was a keenly fought out game producing red-hot rugby between two unbeaten teams, who are the main contenders for this year's league title.

This match was never an 'Aragalaya' - the fans were there in their numbers, drawn from the outskirts of Kandy and from Colombo to witness this contest. It was a full house.

There were jeers and cheers aplenty and it turned out to be a rousing match which in the end the Red Shirts won. This stirred a hornet's nest. A section of the crowd went berserk with stone throwing at the innocent fans.

This resulted in several fans getting injured. One of them was former Kandy and Air Force and CR & FC player, Mohan Balasuriya, who was there with his family. He suffered serious injury to the face.

It went on unabated despite the Kandy players personally going into the thick of the crowd persuading them to stop this ugly epsiode. Dr. Sarath Kapuwatte president of the K. S. C. and the other officials, who did much for the upliftment and development of the game were shocked and dumbfounded. Due to this unwarranted behaviour by a section of the crowd the image of Kandy rugby has been tarnished. Dr. Sarath Kapuwatte, Sarath Perera, Leslie de Soysa and other officials including Sri Lanka Captain Priyantha Ekanayake and his team mates were lost for words to explain, how it all came about but were sad at this ugly incident.

A staunch supporter of Sri Lanka rugby, Malik Samarawickrema who was in the midst of the rumpus was very upset at this behaviour that ruined all the good work done to promote the game in Kandy. He said, "Kandy has won 32 matches todate, what's wrong in losing a game? CR and FC played better rugby to win this match". Even Priyantha Ekanayake agreed.

One must learn to take defeat in life, be it on or off the field. Winning is only a temporary happiness. Incidents of this nature by a set of ignorant fans have caused a lot of unhappiness.

But the security arrangements for a match of this magnitude was found wanting - with a handful of Policemen, who were made to look like mere spectators.

When the situation went out of hand they fired tear gas after the damage was done.

Kandy S. C. hierarchy should be partly blamed for not taking proper remedial measures when they were expecting a big crowd for this key match. One fan was heard saying it has happened in the past in Colombo. We agree. However two wrongs don't make a right. In the end it's the Kandy rugby fans, who will suffer if the clubs in Colombo refuse to come to Kandy for their engagements.

The present Sri Lanka rugby squad has quite a number of players drawn from K. S. C. including the captain, Priyantha Ekanayake.

Today, sports has been ruined worldwide due to too much of professionalism and betting. This malady has crept into Sri Lanka sports too.

Are trophies more important than the game? Sports, be, it cricket, football or rugby is no longer a gentleman's game. Win at all costs is the order of the day due to unabated craving for money.

It isn't sport. But why at the expense of the innocent fans who had come to enjoy a pleasant evening with their families.? It is evident that June 21, is going to be remembered as a Black Sunday at Nittawela.

Despite all this, camaraderie prevailed among the players after the match. They played hard on the field, but all was forgotten after the match. Life is too short to have enemies. All that happened on the field was forgotten. That's what sport is all about, not to lament after the match.

The president of the SLRFU, Dr. Maiya Gunasekera's car too was damaged. He told Dr. Sarath Kapuwatte, "it's okay by me. But I am sorry for poor Mohan Balasuriya, who suffered a serious facial injury and some other fans too who had to suffer this agony, due to this ugly incident". It's a setback alright for Kandy rugby.

A correspondent from Kandy told this scribe who was there to witness this match: "Don't write anything about this incident. You will not be able to come to Nittawela again". Well, I would like to tell him, I am quite used to these threats. It happened to me in the World Cup in 1979, when some disgruntled Sri Lankan fans tried to abuse me in Birmingham. They got what they deserved from Bernard Thomas, the former England Physio and Assistant Manager why. 'If you have problems with my friend, settle it in your country, but not here.' They just melted away. Malik Samarawickrama and Jagath Fernando were present to watch this game. I have been told by my 'Guru' late A. V. Fernando a senior sports journalist in the then Times of Ceylon, to write what I see for the greater good of the game. But not to go bootlicking.

Excuses and hiding from the truth is no remedy to bring about peace and harmony. This correspondent must realise that:- 'Truth is the greatest Religion'. One must always strive to pen the truth, in order to infuse sanity among the frustrated.

Rover pinpoints.....

Minister has his say

The Amateur Athletic Association recommends ten names to the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports to pick the selectors for the AAA.

Only three of their nominees have been picked. Four outsiders have been nominated by the Minister, which leaves the AAA wondering what to do.

PA System out

The Singer -Akai Nidahas Trophy opening ceremony was held on a scale thought to be grand at the Premadasa International Stadium with India beating Sri Lanka in the opener by 8 wickets.

But one thing missing was the Public Address System which failed to work.

The Cricket Board Exco held an emergency meeting and took stock of the situation, Rover learns.

Journalist gagged

A leading correspondent from Kandy, was heard telling a senior journalist from Colombo not to write a word about certain horrible incidents that took place at Nittawela in the match between CR & FC and Kandy.

This correspondent was heard telling the Colombo reporter that if he wrote a single word, "you will not be able to visit Nittawela again".

Against constitution

For the second time the Cricket Board constitution was flouted with another person very close to the Sri Lanka cricket team giving commentaries on Worldtell, a well known name here.

Cheque missing

The beneficiary cheque given to the first of the cricketers of the past who was due to receive it had gone missing for nearly 20 minutes.

It was later found and the first beneficiary took it smiling. Rover learns that the Cricket Board official was on pins until it was traced.

Cricket song at a tidy sumThe Cricket song which was composed and played at the opening ceremony of the Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy cost Rs 2 1/2 lakhs of the Rs. 5 lakhs charged by a private advertising agency.

Rover learns that at the closing ceremony discussions are on to have an elephant parade.At what cost?

The official address of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) is No 35, Maitland Place, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

One wonders how the Wisden of 1998 has the Executive Secretary Dhamika Ranatunga's address, who operates from the Board Headquarters, as No 58, Campbell Place, Colombo 10.

An extract from the Wisden, bearing page No 1330, which gives the new address is printed for the benefit of our readers - Rover

D.L. Richards, The Clock Tower, Lord's Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN (0171-266 1818; fax 0171-266 1777)

International Cricket Council

SRI LANKA: Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, D. Ranatunga, 58, Campbell Place, Colombo 10 (00 94 1 691601/691602; fax 00 94 1 691439)

AUSTRALIA: Australian Cricket Board, M. Speed, 90, Jolimont Street, Jolimont, Victoria 3002 (00 61 3 9653 9999; fax 00 61 3 9653 9922)

ENGLAND: England and Wales Cricket Board, T.M. Lamb, Lord's Ground, London NW8 8QZ (0171-432 1200; fax 0171-289 5619).INDIA: Board of Control for Cricket in India, J.Y. Lele, Sanmitra, Anandpura, Baroda 390 001 (00 91 265 428833; fax 00 91265 431122)

SLARDAR 1000 km '98 attracts twenty-seven

The SLARDAR 1000 kilo metre rally '98 has attracted 27 participants including two motor cyclists and will be held on July 10, 11 and 12.

This year's rally will be held in five stages, starting from Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte at 8.02 p.m. on July 10. Every vehicle will leave at 2 minute intervals, finishing at Mawatagama completing the first stage.

The second stage will start after a break of 7 hours from Mawatagama to Kandy, while the third stage will begin at 2 p.m. in front of Indra Traders covering 230 kilometres from Kandy to Mahiyangana and back.

The fourth stage will commence at Kandy and end at Talawakelle, and the final stage will be from Talawakelle back to Kotte via Avissawella.

The routes taken for this rally, will be 80 percent off roads, while speeding on the main roads will be restricted to keep traffic moving for the safety of the public.

The first car to finish at Kotte will be at around 8.30 p.m.

The winner of every stage will be awarded cash prizes with the overall winner being found and the team champions also selected.

Richard de Zoysa will defend his title with four newcomers entering the fray with the oldest competitor being big bird Rodney Mason.

This rally will be sponsored by Lakfoil Private Limited, Korean Spa Industries Limited, Park N.Shop and Indra Traders Limited.

Eva Open Netball Championships

The Western Province Netball Association, will conduct the Eva Open Netball League Championships sponsored by ICL Marketing for the third year at the Police Park, Bambalapitiya. The championships will be held on July 18, 19 and 26 and is open to all clubs, firms and schools.

The tournament will be held in the A. B. C. D. divisions. A tournament will also be held for veterans over 35 and mixed too.

Special awards will be given to the Netball queen, best male player, best centre court player, best shooter, best defence, smartest team and best under 12, 15 and 19 player (schools).

Entries will close with Rio Ramlan at No 64, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha Colombo 7 or Alexi de Silva at Stafford International School Colombo 7 on July 10 at 5 p.m.

The draw will be held on July 10 at 5.30 p.m. at the Police Families Association No 7, Joseph Frazer Road, Colombo 5. The chief guest at the opening ceremony will be Paritosh Joshi, General Manager of ICL Marketing (Private) Limited, while the chief guest at the finals will be Senerath Kapukotuwa, Group Director, Maharaja Orgainzation (AF)

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