Ceylon football made its mark in 1958 | Sunday Observer

Ceylon football made its mark in 1958

Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon made its first football tour of Far East 61 years ago in 1958. The exact day was Wednesday April 2, 1958. A 20- member contingent comprising three officials and several players emplaned on a six week tour of China via Rangoon.

Indeed, this was a single honour to the then parent-body for football in the country, the Ceylon Football Association which had earned international recognition for nearly two decades. At that time too, football, undoubtedly was the most popular game in Sri Lanka which was played all over the country. D.S. Abraham was the coach who kept the players fit and well during this strenuous tour.

Kandy’s Tom Ossen, a product of Dharmaraja College, was the captain of the Sri Lanka team. Tom Ossen was playing for Young Stars Sports Club and was working at the Kandy Municipal Council as a playground instructor and also was a keen figure of the Kandy Football XI. He had been in the Ceylon team continuously since 1952 and had proved to be a player who could play, both in attack and defence with great composure. He had led the Ceylon team at home against Madras early in 1958.

Though Tom is no more, his services to football is remembered. In 1958 he was the coach of the Peradeniya University, Young Stars SC, Kandy Association Football League and a top grade FIFA referee. In the good old days, tours were limited unlike today. Nowadays there are plenty of tours, thanks to Manilal Fernando when he was football chief who opened the gate for overseas tournaments.

Tom Ossen’s deputy on this tour was W. Andrew Fernando of Nestle’s and Nawalanka fame who had been with the national team regularly since 1953, who was just a year junior to Tom at National level.

Andrew was regarded as a real match winner after his feats at the 3rd Asian Quadrangular Tournament in Calcutta in 1954, playing as a left half. Then in 1957 Andrew Fernando had helped the Lankan team to beat Burma together with another Kandy product T.O.M. Deen. These two netted a goal each to give the country two goals to Burma’s no score.

The two goal keepers on the tour were M.M. Hashim Deen of Cargill’s and Victory SC and Ben Ferreira of Galle and Southern SC. Hashim Deen, then known as the prince of goal-keepers, had thrilled spectators there and overseas with his daring and delightful displays between the posts.

The fullbacks were Christopher Ranasinghe, M. Bagoos Saldin and E.P. Solomon. Ranasinghe had played for Sandhurst and the Army Southern Command. He was a fine fullback with powerful kicks. Bagoos Saldin played for Old Joes SC and E.P. Solomon played for Saunders SC, was the best left back at that time. An old Josephian Christopher had represented the R.M.A. Sandhurst and the Army Southern Command in 1957.

He had been an indefatigable fullback with a powerful clearance. Bagoos Saldin represented Old Joes and the Shell Company. He had toured Calcutta in 1954 and Russia in 1957 with representative Ceylon teams. E.P. Solomon had played for Government Printing Office and Saunders SC was the most outstanding left fullback at that time with uncanny anticipation. He had toured Moscow with the Colombo FL team and had capped for Ceylon on many occasions.

Besides skipper Tom Ossen, the other halves were M.P.B. Dissanayake, K.A. Premadasa, Eric Perera and M.A. Karunaratne who were excellent players. Of this coterie A. Premadasa of Ceylon Wharfage Company and Sunders SC was the most senior player. Premadasa was the most travelled player in the contingent having toured Rangoon, Calcutta, Dacca and Moscow earlier with representative sides. He was hailed as one of the most scientific and stylish half-backs in Asia at that time. M.P.B. Dissanayake represented the H.M.N. Customs and the Allinone SC.

He had played against Pakistan. The dapper built Eric Perera of St. Benedict’s, Caltex and Saunders fame who led the Colombo League to Moscow and played as centre-half, when the need arose. M.A. Karunaratne of the Ceylon Engineers and Kotahena Rangers was a product from Badulla.

The forward line of the tour party comprised of T.S. Jayman, K.B. Ariyadasa, K.D. Somapala, T.O.M. Deen, Andrew Fernando, E.N. Nicholas and L. Bernadus jnr. Right extreme T.S. Jayman was an old boy of Kingswood College Kandy and played for Ceylon Engineers and represented CR & FC. Left extreme K.B. Ariyadasa of Colombo Port commission and Saunders SC was a glutton for hard work. K.D. Somapala, the inside right had represented the country from 1954.

T.O.M. Deen playing in the centre forward berth was an all round sportsman from St. Anthony’s College Kandy, played for Nestle’s and Saunders SC. E.N. Nicholas who played for St. Benedict’s, the Police SC and Kotahena Rangers was an artful dribbler of the ball who opened up the game judiciously. H.L. Bernadus Jnr of Rowland and Sunrise SC was an intelligent player.

Then in 1995 Sri Lanka became the SAARC Bristol Goal Cup Champions - under the captaincy of Sampath Perera winning the cup by beating India.

The team was made out of players like Sampath Perera (Capt), Rohan Perera, M. Amanulla, M. Kabeer, Lalith Weersinghe, T.S. Gajanayake, J. Hassimdeen, Jagath Rohana, R. Wambeck, L.P. Perera, Sirisena Manjula, H.N.T. Gamage, P. Ferdinando, R. Imtiyaz, Ajith Prasanna, M. Rafi, I.U. Peeras, M. Riza, R. Hettiarchchi, D. Sugath, D. Sarath, S.M. Riswan and C. Stainwall.

It was a grand final and great to win the SAARC Bristol Cup. Sri Lanka had to beat India in the extra time. At that time, Sri Lanka had not been beaten by India since 1952. On the way to the finals Sri Lanka beat Nepal 2-1.

After a goal less first half, the heavens opened and lighting flashed all around the stadium. Surely the match would have to be abandoned under such conditions and the teams would have to share the prize as joint champions.

All credit to George Joseph, the AFC’s match commissioner from the Football Association of Malaysia. After consulting the local officials he held on for 45 stormy minutes until the rain relented.

Incredibly, the players were back out within a couple of minutes and the second half kicked off on a pitch which looked once the worse for the watery battering it had just taken.

No goals were scored in the 90 minutes, no sudden-death winner in the first period of extra time. Yet again found one, Kandy product K.D. Sarath, who came into the game as a substitute on the 68th minute, for his first senior cap. In the 108th minute, skipper Sampath Perera broke down the left and his low cross was met by Sarath, whose diving header flew into the far corner.

Sri Lanka were the champions and the happiest was Manilal. This tournament was held from March 25 to April 2, 1995.