Football is dead in Kandy and none gives a damn | Sunday Observer

Football is dead in Kandy and none gives a damn

It is extremely sad to note how Kandy has forgotten its football. In the past few years no AGM or tournaments at club level have been held. But not many people are aware of the fact that the football dream nearly came into fruition in the 1920s.

Kandy was once a powerhouse of the country’s club football. But today it is in a forgotten state. The FFSL is not showing any interest in Kandy football. It is time they woke up from their deep slumber and started to kick the game of football in Kandy in the right direction. The Kandy Football League is a founder member of the controlling body. At one time this league conducted over 150 matches a year, today not even one match is played. The decline started in 2010, due to the fault of the controlling body. Football was introduced to Kandy during the Second World War when British units were stationed in Kandy with the onetime Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in South East Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten having his headquarters in the hill capital. Several top British footballers displayed their versatility, representing the Kingstown and Queenstown regiments, the Royal artillery and the West African Rifles which had quite a few Negro stars in it. Football was the main sport at that time in Kandy and the game increased in popularity day by day and was played with great interest.

Some of the clubs which took to the game at that time were Old Antonians SC, Old Kingswoodians SC, Police SC, Kandy YMCA, Greenfield SC, Kandy Sports Club, Phoenix SC, St. Michael’s SC, Gampola Chums, Rovers SC, Kandy YMMA and Red Stars SC.

The sport with foreign flavour was popular and it was played everywhere. Some were seen playing in the streets. Wherever any space was available football was played and the late doyen of sport was MS Jainudeen, father in-law of former Sports Editor of the Observer TMK Samat. He was the kingpin and the man behind the scene who formed the Kandy Amateur Football league with support from the foreign military personnel and some other keen men of Kandy like Col VHL Anthonis, ACL Ratwatte and EL Senanayake.

From the early years of barefooted competition to the age of sophisticated football, Kandy played a vital role in its development. In the good old days most of the football clubs in Kandy were run by Muslim Mudalalis, who had been keen supporters of the clubs.

Later on, the Kandy Amateur Football League was formed. It subsequently changed its name to Kandy District Football Association and served football in Matale, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Kurunegala, and Kegalle. As the years passed these towns formed their own associations. Then came the Kandy Football Referees Association, in the late 1940s with pioneers like Philip Buultjens, Kingsley Abeysinghe, R. Jaymon and SAC “Gunner” Mohideen as active referees and later in the 1960s came AJM Yusuf, ME Marikar and Tom Ossen to handle the whistle.

When football in Colombo and elsewhere received a setback as far as Ceylonese exponents of the game were concerned, the game was more or less confined to the permanent population as well as to the services.

Early in 1942, however, there appeared to be a lack of interest in the game and the efforts made by SC Traill, the then secretary of the Kandy Football League to call a meeting failed was he compelled to return the trophies to the donors.

At that time the game seemed to be seriously affected. But fortunately GH Robins, TPC Roberts who were then stationed in Kandy and MS Jainudeen were mainly responsible in resuscitating the game. A tournament for a Shield was inaugurated with the participation of the Services teams in Kandy and football began to thrive again. At that time Bogambara was the location of high activity. At one time Kandy had one of the biggest Leagues with over 40 teams. The present-day generation should be aware of the Kandy football history. Today football is not heard of in kandy and the sport has died.

In the mid 1970s Dr. CDL Fernando took over the presidency and held it till his death in the mid 1980s. From him William Premaratne took over and in the 1990s football was almost dying and this writer brought in police officer BM Liyanage and once again football hit the top. In 1992 Kandy won the inter-league competition for the Everyday trophy while BM Liyanage was in the UK on official duty and in his absence H. Marikar acted as the president and that was the time the Kandy Football League won a title for the first time. M. Nadaraja was the secretary and TK Mohamed the coach.

Tom Ossen an old boy of Dharmaraja College led the Sri Lanka and had the longest career from 1947 to 1965. Mahinda Aluwihare a product of St. Sylvester’s led the country for many years with success. Others who played with distinction were TS Jaymon, Oscar Wijetunga, Tuan Amidon, Bhai, Ratnapala Aluwihare, ME Marikar, AJM Yusuf, MS Shabdeen, Philip Buultjens, Newton Perera, Kalu Sirisena, PM Rasiha, T. Themiyapala, Abdul Razak, Rukman Silva, GS Piyatissa, Wilson Abeysinghe, Freddie White, Athur Windus, Bin Islamil, Moomin Khan, TOM Deen, Hector Galuge, S. Ekanayake. R. Wipulasena, DH Vithanage, M. Fuard, M. Thair, Sunil Samarasinghe, S. Nelson, Faji Fazeer, SA Weerasinghe and KD Sarath.

Schools like St. Anthony’s, Kingswood, Dharmaraja, Sri Rahula, St. Paul’s (now known as Sri Sumanmgala), Berravettes College, Cymas College, Vidyartha, Hindu College and St. Sylvester’s took the game seriously becoming the breeding ground in producing football players for tournaments in Kandy.

The question asked by many in Kandy is: When will Kandy’s football come alive to reach its past glory?