Sri Lanka great sacks entire team over brawl | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka great sacks entire team over brawl

Hawked-eyed Hisham Abdeen (papare)
Hawked-eyed Hisham Abdeen (papare)

Hisham Abdeen declares country is paying for encouraging acts of indiscipline and driving away the crowd that adored club rugby:

One time rugby great and Sri Lanka crowd favourite Hisham Abdeen sacked his own team and evicted them out of an Academy tournament last week for causing a fight and disregarding the norms of fair play on the very ground from which he showcased his brilliance in the 1980s.

Abdeen, who directs and runs the HARFA Academy that conducted the tournament, disqualified his players along with another team for their part in a brawl that he viewed as unbecoming of sportsmanship and a bad precedent for some 30 teams that contested the proceedings at Havelock Park.

“Can you win a match by fighting”, asked the former Sri Lanka flanker. “If you don’t nip these kids of bad behaviour at the start of their careers you cannot produce quality rugby players”.

Abdeen’s team was poised to lift the trophy in the two-day youth rugby extravaganza that has been held annually for the past ten years. His Hisham Abdeen Rugby Football Academy (HARFA) has produced an amazing 70 percent of the rugby players who have turned out for the best school teams in the country over the years with one of them being Sri Lanka’s latest find Naveen Henakanganamge who captained S. Thomas’ College.

Abdeen’s retirement from the game has made him a worshiper of decency and respect on the field and it was no surprise that he did not spare the rod and spoil the child in an age when politics and closed-door bickering has thwarted the nurturing of quality players for the country.

“Above everything else there has to be discipline and without it nothing is possible”, said Abdeen whose style of play packed Havelock Park with teaming crowds for over a decade. The unprecedented act by Abdeen comes at a time when Sri Lanka Rugby is hard-pressed to bring back the crowds and make club rugby the spectator sport it was by even reintroducing foreign professionals.

“I know there is some kind of a decision to have foreign players at club rugby and I am not against it if this is the solution. At least there will be a good fight for some teams. But if discipline was driven into the minds of players from a very young age there would have been no question about the quality of play”, said Abdeen. Perhaps no other player in the country was able to play with the kind of charisma that made Abdeen a prized catch for Havelocks during his era where crowds thronged to see him play and he gave them what they paid to see.

“I do sympathise when someone who followed rugby in the past now tells me that they have turned away from the club scene. Without good players there is no good rugby and when there is no good rugby there are no spectators”, rued Abdeen looking at the present club scene.

If Abdeen was to pick anyone who could match his hey days or come near to the artistry he displayed on the field, that honour may go to Kandy’s fly half Fazil Marija who retired at the end of last season. But that Abdeen can pick on just one player after he himself hung up his boots in 2001 only shows to what depth the progress of rugby had fallen, or some may argue, suppressed.

“Marija was some talent and I liked the way he played. We may have been two different players from two different eras, but he was someone I saw who played some very good rugby”, said Abdeen.

Given his exploits on the field and the following he had, it must be strange that Sri Lanka Rugby is yet to harness his importance as they set about their formula year after year with little or no results to go by while hundreds of young players pass out from Abdeen’s academy.

“If today’s players are going after money then I am not on their side. I know times have changed from the time we played, but if rugby is not the winner at the end of the day because of money and not quality, then what’s the use of this boast? The crowd comes to see good rugby and they pay to see good rugby”, said Abdeen.

He was the first schoolboy in the country to don the Sri Lanka jersey when he played in the Hong Kong Sevens in 1980 and fittingly captained the team four years later to win the Bowl trophy in the world famous event. It marked the start of the career of a player who left behind a legacy like no other.

Comments

I've seen numerous games Hisham Abdeen played for Isipathana and Clubs, he plays the game hard never play dirty!! And Abdeen very disciplined player!!! Am happy to see Abdeen contributing to the game of Rugby!!!

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