Hockey is happiness - Nalantha de Silva | Sunday Observer

Hockey is happiness - Nalantha de Silva

“In his day he was a good team leader, a positive thinker and also a good organizer”,said his coaches in their introduction about him. He was a hard fighter at the defensive line in the National Hockey Team. When he plays the defence line, the opposing attackers have no easy chance to beat him in a match. What we say is reinforced by the fact that he was a permanent member of the National Team since 2012 and also a member of the National Side which qualified for the Asian hockey championship after thirty years in 2014. Thus, we would like to introduce him as a most successful and valuable player inthe National team in recent times. Youth Observer met this exceptional hockey player to talk about his career as a hockey player. 

Q : First of all, let us go back to the beginning of your career. How did you get involved in this sport?

A. I joined the game as a nine year old boy in Grade 4. I think the sport culture in my region influenced me. I was born in the province of Matale and I watched hockey virtually all day long.

When I went to school I saw players who were contesting each other with sticks for a small ping-pong ball at the Edward Park ground. In school, I also saw hockey practices at our school grounds. After school while coming back to my home in front of the Edward Ground I again saw hockey players. I stopped and watched their game.

Sometimes, I stayed and watched matches. This meant that I didn’t go home for several hours. When my father or mother came looking for me then, they would find that I was going back home at that time . Matale is said to be the cradle of hockey in our country. In such an environment it is not surprising that I got involved in this game.  

Q : Do you think that was the main reason for your attachment to this game for more than two decades?

A. Exactly, I told you earlier that I born in the cradle of hockey in Sri Lanka. So,my childhood was full of hockey. Hockey came naturally to the youngsters in the Matale province and I too played hockey and developed a deep love for the game. .  

Q : Hockey is not a popular game in our country and also not a sport that needs plenty of money. Have these factors affected you badly?

A. I think sport is a meditation for life. Any sport can be used to stabilise our mind set. Although hockey is not a popular game in the whole country it is the most popular sport in my province. This is why I stick with hockey and never feel frustrated about that.  

But cricket is the richest sports in the country. That is the reality of our sports. There are so many professional franchises with cricket which you can join and earn more money. If you can get involved with cricket it may help to bring success to your life. But if anyone can get involved in any sport he or she can build up their mindfulness. I believe it. However, as a player I do not run after money.  

 Once we won the World Cup in 1996 we got vast opportunities in cricket . If we played more competitive hockey than today, we also can stabilize this game and come forward easily.  

Q : How has your sport affected your academic career?

A. In the early days I had to struggle with my studies, because of my sport. I can remember that the day I came to a cross road and had to make a decision. At that moment I decided to stop my studies and continue with my sport. That was the truth I faced. If I tried to balance it, I would not have been able to do either properly. I am happy about my decision.

Q: Tell us about your career in sports?

A. As I said earlier that I was started my sports career in grade 4. Then I became a member of the under fifteen and seventeen age group teams in my school. I was participating in all Island tournaments, Sri Lanka Nationals, Junior Nationals in the early days. Then I joined the Navy in 2009 and represented the Eastern province in provincial tournaments and won the provincial championship in the same year. That display of skill was enough for me to be selected to the Sri Lanka National pool (thirty members). However, my talent was not enough to get selected to the National team that year. But I got that chance two years later when they called me for the National team for the first time. My life’s dream was fulfilled on that day. Then our team was selected for the Asian Games after a long time in 2014. That achievement helped to build up our morale. I am happy I chose to play hockey.

Q : During your career, you had a special chance to lead the National team?

A. Yes. I had a memorable chance to lead the Sri Lanka National team in 2016. If any player can represent his country and also lead the National team it is a remarkable and rare opportunity in their sports career. I got that opportunity in 2016 and every player gave me their full support. I can be happy about it and it will be a lifelong happy memory. 

Q : Would you like to tell us about your personal life?

A. I got married a couple of years ago and have a baby daughter. She is just over one and a half years. My wife is also a hockey player and she led the Sri Lanka women’s hockey side. She is in the Navy and plays with the Naval women ‘s team. Both of us have been involved with our favourite game and have led our country’s team too.. We are a happy family.   However, I will never tell my daughter to become a hockey player. Because, that decision is not in our hands. It will be her personal choice.   Finally, I thank my hockey coach Palitha Wasalage, my parents, senior players, my team members, relatives and all who supported us.  

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