Age is no barrier for me | Sunday Observer

Age is no barrier for me

22 November, 2020
Pix: Courtesy
Pix: Courtesy

Former Sri Lankan football captain Chathura Gunarathna is one of the top players in the country. He was born in Matara and his neighbour was world-famous cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya.

Inspired by Jayasuriya, Chathura’s father wanted him to be a cricketer. But fate made him a footballer. The Youth Observer caught up with Chatura to talk about his sports life.

Q: What are you doing these days?

A: I stay at home due to the covid pandemic. I think this pandemic has indirectly told the people of the world to stay with their families and be vigilant the whole time. If this is the order of nature, I must accept it and live with it. Whether this is a natural phenomena or a biological weapon of a powerful country, it is a tragedy for humans.

Q: As a football player are you satisfied with your career?

A: Internationally we have failed to achieve a place in football as yet. So, I cannot be satisfied with my football. But, we know that several people are trying to find success for Sri Lanka in football. However, personally I am happy about my skills.

Q: In that situation, do you think it would be better to take up another sport?

A: It is a difficult question to answer. In my younger days I played cricket in Matara. Former Sri Lanka cricket captain Sanath Jayasooriya was my next-door neighbour at that time. He was my cricket adviser. Sanath aiyya’s fame influenced Matara youngsters to take up cricket and my father too encouraged me to play cricket. These things grew a cricket culture around me. However, I was more attracted to football than cricket. If I had played cricket maybe I would have been in a better economic situation in life than now. But I never regret taking up football.

Q: What was the main reason for you to give up cricket and take to football?

A: My father’s younger brother ‘Kumara Bappa’. He changed my fate. He influenced me indirectly to become a footballer.

Q: You are known by the nickname ‘Podie’ in football circles. What is the reason?

A: My father’s younger brother created that name. In our teenage days, he used to take us to the playground and play football with us. While playing he called my elder brother ‘Loku’ and myself ‘Podi’.

That was how the name came to stay. Everyone knows me by that name.

Q: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also recognizes you by that name. Am I correct?

A: You are correct. They also use my name as Chathura Gunarathne or Podi. My Bappa was responsible for it and I love the name. However, Sri Lanka was not lucky to get his services for football. He was also unlucky.

My grandfather did want him to leave Matara to play football in Colombo. Due to that he could not play in the national team. But I believe he had the talent to play for the country. If he had been granted permission to come to Colombo he may have been one of the best players Sri Lanka had ever produced.

Q: A large number of players run after money. But if one looks into your career they will find that you do not chase after money. Is there any special reason for this?

A: Yes, everyone knows it well. I have never been greedy for money during my whole career. Money was not the main target in my life because I was born into a middle-class family in Matara. My father was a businessman and earned enough money to keep our home fires burning. Due to this, money did not have any magnetic effect on me.

Q: Were you ever invited to join foreign football clubs?

A: Of course. I got invitations on several occasions. But I never accept those invitations. I had a chance to represent twelve football clubs.

Q: You have uploaded pictures of your new two-storeyed home and vehicle on your Facebook page. Is it to tell everybody about your status in life as a football player?

A: No. I did not have any intention to hurt anyone by uploading these pictures. I only uploaded pictures of my new home.

Everything I have earned is through my own family and my wife’s family businesses. Our family business generates money and I manage it very carefully. My wife’s family is also rich and both our family businesses have helped us to reach this status in life.

Q: You are from the southern part in the country. Is that the secret of your success?

A: Yes. The people in the South are courageous. Nobody can defeat us easily. I like to inject that courage to the whole country. However, I faced several problems in life. But I never took a step back. I overcame every challenge and the people who tried to defeat me have lost their lifestyle. Some tried to pull me down after getting close to me. But finally, truth and skills defeated every attempt. You can compare me and their life status with these pictures. The pictures silently tell who has really succeeded in life.

Q: We have to give up certain things after we grow older. You are in the middle years of the third decade of your life. Do you have plans to retire?

A: I have been playing football for 20 years, yet I keep myself fit. You have to retire when the time comes. But the officials of my football club have never asked me to retire. I play well at present and the goals I score helps the team to win matches. I will continue to play football until the day my mind tells me to stop. Only then will I hang up my boots.

Q: Could you tell me about some of the memorable events in your sports life?

A: When I was vice-captain of the national team my father died suddenly and there was a match to be played. However, the Football Federation postponed the match for seven days. After my father’s seventh-day almsgiving I played in the match and scored the winning goal. That victory was a tribute to my father.

Being appointed captain of the national team and scoring seven goals against Pakistan are the most remarkable days in my sports life. The clubs that I have represented have won the FA Cup and the Premier League Trophy on several occasions.

Q: Could you speak about your personal life?

A: My wife is Sashika Lakmini. I have a son and a daughter and hope to welcome the arrival of the third member soon. I engage in business activities parallel to my sports activities and stay happy.

Q: Will you introduce your children to football in the future?

A: It is up to them. If they are talented in any sport they could take it up. I will never interfere with their choice of sport. But they must never use my name to progress in their sports career. It should be through their own skills.

Q: Who are the people who helped you to achieve your dreams in football?

A: My uncles Susil, Sukumal, Kumara Gunarathna and also Sanath Jayasuriya helped me to develop as a footballer. After I came to Colombo, my uncle Isantha de Silva advised me and was close to me. Dudley Steinwall, Sampath Perera, Balendra Anthony, Saheer Master, Fhais Master, Raja Master also guided my football life. When I joined the Police Sports Club, Navegalage, Pushpa Kumara, Buddhika advised me to manage my life. The unforgettable person who helped my football career was Manilal Fernando. He guided me well on how to manage my life. Today, his son is with me. I also thank the others whose names I cannot recall at this time.