Glamour boys Saunders reach 100 | Sunday Observer

Glamour boys Saunders reach 100

They were known as Sri Lanka’s glamour boys. Saunders have been in the thick of the country’s football since its inception in 1918 by Dionis Appuhamy and continued to dribble, shoot and score for the game winning many trophies that now adorn their shelves.When an individual, school or club reaches the 100 mark it is a memorable event and calls for celebrations on a grand and hitherto unseen celebrations. Not many live to reach and celebrate that dream mark.

That soccer club from Keselwatte, famously known as SAUNDERS SPORTS CLUB, achieved that rare distinction marking 100 years. They celebrated it in grand style last Sunday.

Envy of all clubs

SAUNDERS was the envy of all other clubs dribbling in the country. To beat them was the bottom line of many a club. But it was so well renowned that the club attracted the best of players from the schools. To sport the club colours of Yellow was the dream of all soccer players. As the saying goes many were called to SAUNDERS but few were chosen to sport the club jersey.

The club had players of the class and of the calibre of Wilson, Petha Premadasa, Ismail, penalty specialist Azeez, Eric Perera, Tom Deen, Izzadeen, Piyadasa Perera, Edward Wickremasuriya, M.A.Ameer and Judy Preena, names that come to mind in a golden era of the club’s soccer. It is only a dream to expect players of that class to be in our midst in this day and age. Regrettably.

Moon among the stars

But the man who shone like the moon among the stars was P.D.SIRISENA. SIRISENA was a rare breed and the likes of him, the writer makes bold to say would not see the light of the day in Sri Lanka again – not in another 100 years. I covered him on my rounds and it was such a pleasure to do so.

‘SIRA’ as he was popularly known was called the local PELE. When he had the ball at his feet he would weave magic with it like did the Brazilian, also called the Black Pearl. He was poetry in motion and a role model for budding footballers watching him. No defence was impregnable for him. He had good body swerve and amazing dribbling skills to send the opposing defence the wrong way and had a pair of shooting boots that had goal written on them whenever he wore them and took the field.

Much in demand

‘SIRA’ was very much in demand, not only in the local scene, but internationally as well. He played abroad and some the professional players who saw his magic predicted that he could have found a place in a world team. Some of the goals he scored were breathtaking. The club in celebrating 100 years also celebrated the first death anniversary of this genius. After his playing days were over, the contributions he made to the game, the club and the country are written in history and need not be reiterated here.

‘SIRA’ was national coach, headed the soccer academy, Technical Director and he excelled in all these sports until age and ill health caught up with him. Yet confined to a chair he would always keep an eye on the goings on in the club. Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa also a product of Saunders SC and a football lover and promoter in appreciation of the tremendous work done by SIRISENA honoured him by naming the Maligawatte Playground the P.D.Sirisena Playground. A fitting honour.

Rixon fielding coach

The search for a fielding coach by Sri Lanka Cricket has ended with the news that former Australian wicket keeper STEVE RIXON has gloved the all important job. SLC went on a long search contacting several who have excellent credentials in this all important aspect of the game – FIELDING- and with many having to say ‘no’ owing to prior commitments, RIXON was the man. On hearing the news the question on the lips of all interested in cricket would have been: How come that a wicket keeper could help take our fielding in all aspects that is in the basement at the time of writing to great heights.

Won’t blame cricket fans

We won’t blame cricket fans. It is a pertinent question to ask. But with several experts in the aspect of fielding having to say ‘no’ owing to prior engagements, SLC which was frantically looking for a fielding coach would have had no other option but sign the former Aussie WK. Those who, like this writer, feel inclined to question RIXON’S credentials considering that he is only a wicket keeper, should not jump the gun and come to conclusions. But wait, watch and see how RIXON goes in this all-important high profile job.

Need we mention that wicket keeping and fielding are two different aspects. It is like cheese from chalk. Sri Lanka’s fielding – catching and ground fielding – at the moment is awful and a sight for sore eyes. A poor fielding side is sickening to watch and Sri Lanka’s fielding is in that sickening lot.

Chappell did wonders

In the past especially when another former Aussie TREVOR CHAPPELL was our fielding coach, with great thinking and hard work, he took our fielding not only to be the best in Asia, but in the world. After his departure, the fielding standards dropped alarmingly and the malady has continued and RIXON will have a gargantuan task to help resurrect it from the depths it has fallen into.

While it won’t be fair to sit in judgement and question RIXON’S credentials, it is hoped that he will work the oracle and take our fielding to the excellent dizzy heights it was when his countryman was in charge. On the aspects of a fielding coach the writer wonders why one of the best in the country TILLEKERATNE DILSHAN was not invited to shoulder this responsibility. He has proved his ability being equal to the best in the world and it would not have been a bad idea to have given him the job. He sure would have delivered. But that was not to be. It is hoped that SLC will have him in mind. Maybe we our averse to locals and would prefer foreigners. By the way play a straight bat and enjoy life now. It has an expiry date on it.

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