Religious ceremony today to remember gentleman sportsman Kobbekaduwa | Sunday Observer

Religious ceremony today to remember gentleman sportsman Kobbekaduwa

Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa
Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa

A religious ceremony will be held in Kandy today to mark the 28th death anniversary of one of the finest sportsmen from the hill country, Denzil Kobbekaduwa, who was also one of the most distinguished military officers.

To serve one’s country takes guts. To risk one’s life for one’s country takes honour. To die for one’s country takes sacrifice and Kobbekaduwa was part and parcel of it.

He was a gentleman sportsman, a former Sri Lanka rugby scrum half, a top shelf administrator and a popular referee.

Not only his playing days but also his services as a frontline soldier who died bravely fighting against the LTTE in the island of Kayts in the north will be recalled.

Kobbekaduwa captained the Trinity College rugby team in 1959, played hockey, basketball and cricket and also took part in athletics.

Some of his team mates at Trinity were Ken de Joodt, Nimal Maralanda, M.Talwatte, ARM Azain, EDK Roles, PA Buultjens, S. Janakiram, Ken Murray, Jayantissa Ratwatte, TP Hermon, Jayantha Jayawardena, SC de Silva, Gamini Fernando, T. Haroon Chunchi, R. Madena, RW Madugalle and RR Samarakoon.

Kobbekaduwa had his military training at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in England and after returning to Sri Lanka represented the army rugby team in 1964 and 1965.

Taking time off from the army in 1966, Kobbekaduwa turned out for Havelocks and Kandy SC whose team he led to win the Clifford Cup by beating formidable teams like Havelocks, CH and FC and CR and FC in the final.

Those who played with him in that famous team of 1969 were YC Chang, Mohan Balasuriya, Gavin Stevens, Rohan Abeysundara, D. Makuloluwa, Deepal de Zoysa, Jadi Dissanayake, Gamini Udugama, Jayantissa Ratwatte, Lakshman Samaravijaya, Palitha Sam Samarasekara, Chang Faa Ching, George Jayasena, Shafie Jainudeen, Iswan Omar and Fredrick Prins.

He toured Singapore with the Sri Lanka team and also played for Defence Services and Up-Country against Low country in the Capper Cup.

In 1970 he was recalled to the Army, continued his rugby and created history by becoming the first secretary of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) while still playing the game.

In 1974 when Sri Lanka ended as runner-up in the Asiad for first time, he was SLRFU secretary with Summa Navaratnam as president.

But Kobbekaduwa later turned down several invitations to serve the SLRFU as the Call of Duty from the army nudged him more.

There was a trophy named in his memory and played for by the Central Province RFU and the Western Province RFU.

Later this trophy was awarded to the winner of the inter club Sevens. Heaven knows what has happened to this Trophy.