30th July 2000
In the past several weeks, Rover was deluged with inquiries as to the purpose of NAASU's role in aquatic activity. Never a compliment by those who took the effort to call us. Condemnation of NAASU's administration and aquatics was distressing. It has now come head-on with the readership requiring immediate action. Some of these charges levelled are unfortunate and not in the best interests of the sport. But NAASU has done nothing to remedy the hopeless situation - keeps drowning without a life jacket. How long can this go on?
Our sports desk will be compiling an expose on NAASU with the objective to bring improvement to its administration, management and, most of all, the upliftment and development of aquatic sports throughout Sri Lanka. This is done with the objective to help the sport that no unnecessary criticism will be levelled expect those exempted from whom the sports desk will interview to obtain a correct and perspective picture of this major olympic sport. After track & field, aquatic sports is the next most important participation at the Olympic Games.
In a three part series, this expose will commence from Sunday, August 6, 2000. Our sports desk would appreciate readership response to this expose with a view to present a broad perception of what ails NAASU - to the authorities in order to arrest this erroding trend of this important sport that has flourished for over 60 years.
(1) Rover was asked by an angry caller as to the wisdom of NAASU to select an ageing diver Janaka Biyanwala to the 14th Asia Pacific age group swimming and diving championships to be held in Chinese Taipei. "If Biyanwala can go, why not send the president of NAASU who recently won a Free Style swimming event in the over 60 age group. As a past diver I cannot see why send a diving squad at all! We have no qualified or competent coach and diving officials are all pretenders having no clue to judge diving! Is there anybody at NAASU or the Ministry of Sports who can look into this continuing charade and stop this waste of our precious foreign exchange and the madness.
(2) Rover is again asked as to NAASU's rationale to send a water polo team all the way to Hongkong. The caller said that "one club was inundated with requests for funding part of the team and also some individuals. Why has this begging to go on for trips that have no meaning or benefit to water polo? NAASU cannot conduct a proper tournament and the reason for its existence is only because schools are engaged in the game. There is no qualified or trained coach in Sri Lanka and the game in Hongkong would turn out to be like rugby scores against our team."
(3) "Your Rover column is greatly valued as it reveals the shenanigans that go on in our national sports" said the caller in disgust. Said that the "affairs in weightlifting and boxing are all a sham. Are these national controlling bodies, or just bodies controlling the sports for their personal benefit and convenience? Other than the lightweight classes or categories, all other classes or categories in both sports should be banned for serveral reasons. Sri Lanka has yet to reach that illusive level of providing safety and precautionary measures to hold events in heavier categories". Rover urged the caller to put all he said in the form of a proposal and send them to the respective controlling bodies and also take the issues up with the recently established sports medicine unit in the Ministry of Sports.
(4) Rover is criticized for not highlighting the misleading misinformation that is going the rounds on the sensitive issue in the selection of Radheesha Daluwatte as against Theekshana Ratnasekera. "As I understand Radheesha swims in the age group under 16 and Theekshana in the under 19 age group. If that is the case how could Theekshana have won 10 out of 19 events, except in her group without Radheesha? Is Radeesha a victim of his father's powerful position in the defence establishment, when she appears clearly the superior swimmer to be the obvious choice for selection." The NAASU president is on record to have said that "Preference would be given to young and talented, but they must first qualify?" If the selection is correctly made after a trial - why then the hullabaloo over Radheesha? Don't get me wrong, I am not carrying anyone's bag, known neither swimmer nor their parents. I am not a swimmer and don't wish to get into polemical arguments over the technical aspects of the selection process either. I am just airing my humble view because fairness and merit must play an important role when young people are involved, especially in sports wrong application of these important elements may have devastating effect on the lives when they grow up. It will be a sad day if pressure is brought to deny Radeesha her berth to the Olympics and would in itself be a travesty of justice. Those who cannot qualify in a fair an equitable selection trial must rise above irrelevant argument in this respect and behave as sportspersons. Parents should stay out altogether in the affairs of their children in such instances selection to the Olympic Games. The ministry should be blamed for not having reviewed the NAASU selection committee to ensure that no hidden hand was involved to buckle Radeehsa's selection."
(5). A real victim and injustice is done to young Conrad Francis. Perhaps Francis may not have political pull as the events are unfolding - it is disgusting to see how respectablity of a good swimmer has been crushed" argued a caller distressingly.
By Ravi Nagahawatte
Former national rugby player Marco de Silva resembled a tiger out of its cage when he was playing the game.
Opposing sides always trembled with fear when he ran with the ball. The up-and-unders he kicked to gain ground always confused defending players. Marco had that ability of creating a sense of panic with it....just like a tiger before a kill.
Opposition teams sighed a breath of relief when he hung up his boots in 1992 after16 years of club rugby.
Marco was the full back to watch in the 70's to the 90's when he took up position in the last line of defence at his club, Havelocks. He later represented the 'local All Blacks' Petersons in 1991 and 1992.
Spectators loved to see him because he always did something creative when he received the ball.
"Rugby is a game of power. But there is no beauty in it if one uses too much power," says Marco. Marco just flew like the wind when he had the ball, did a side step, put an up and under or sneaked through the tiniest of gaps. He seldom rammed into an opponent. That was the Marco we knew.
He was the king among full backs of his era. This he proved in no uncertain terms when he became the automatic choice in the Sri Lanka team after making his debut in the Rubgy ASIAD in 1980.
Marco was blessed with unusual strength since he was a kid. His exploits in the rugby field came later since as a lad was earlier hooked to wrestling and judo where he reached national standard.
In wrestling he was part of a sensational happening when he, along with four of his brothers, occupied five slots in a team of seven which bagged the overall title at a Gramasevaka Division Wrestling Championship.
"In wrestling you tackle your opponent before pinning him. These tackling skills came in handy when playing rugby later,"said Marco who rarely lost a match . On one occasion he came home a loser when he honoured a request by a prisoner to lose a match.
Prisoners in those days were given early releases if they excelled in sports.
The wrestling crazy Marco was influenced to take up rugby when he was adopted by Gahardeen Samath , the father of the famous sports writer T.M.K.Samath .
" My parents shifted to Kandana. So going to my school St.Mary's in Dehiwala , became a problem. Arrangements were made for me to live with the Samaths. Samath's relations , Royalist Nizam Jaymon and Shafie Jainudeen who played for Trinity inspired me to take to serious rugby," says Marco who added that he, however, had the first taste of rugby at school for two years .
With the Samaths providing all the inspiration, Marco joined with crowd favourites Havelocks in 1973.
He was just another young hopeful in the club for three full years until 1976 when he got his break in a match as a replacement. He has vague memories of what happened to the regular full back. But the memories of the 40 odd minutes he played that day is crystal clear .
" I changed the game entirely by introducing the up-and-under," says Marco as he recalled the unforgettable moments of the first game he played for Havelocks against CH and FC .
" I sealed my place in the side with that maiden appearance," says Marco.
Marco donned the pink and chocolate jersey for 14 years and represented the club in seven Clifford Cup finals, which is a feat in itself.
According to Marco, apart from disciplined training, the glory that came to the club was made possible by the prayers of Gwendolyn de Silva, Marco's mother . "All players were present at these prayer sessions regardless of their religions. I even prayed for the opposition," said Marco.
Marco continued to blossom as a player and reached his peak in 1978. He says that he played his best ASIAD in 1984 in Japan.
"I asked our team's liason officer to watch me play and to point out my mistakes. Later he told me that I played without a flaw," recalled Marco.
He was loyal to his club for 14 years and even turned down an offer from business tycoon Kishin Butani who wanted him to cross over to CH and FC in 1978.
"I told him that I will not change my club for all the money in the world. Today he commends me for my loyalty to the club whenever he meets me," said Marco.
The authorities at Havelocks Sports Club loved him for the honour he brought to the club. He was one of the club's most looked forward to members whenever he walked in. But that changed in the year 1990 when he did not take part in active rugby .
"When I was entering the club one day an official of the club told me that a member had to sign me in as I was only a playing member. That episode really put me off. A member signed and took me in that day. The club went down in rugby after that. The club eventually apologised for the incident" said Marco who later joined Petersons.
"The officials of Havelocks now send me an honorary membership every year," says Marco.
Marco took to coaching schools in 1987 and later became the official coach for the Western Province Schools in1994. Marco,who will do anything to prove his point, was once forced to play a selected Wesrtern Province side against Central Province in their annual encounter. However he had first called the captain (Ajantha Cooray) and vice captain (Nalin Wijegunawardana) and told them to select the best side leaving aside friendships and school ties.
"I was amazed when they picked the XV I had in mind. I insisted to the selectors of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) that I get to play my selected XV in the first half. We led 18-0 at the 'breather'. Then I told the selectors to play their selected team. The scores were tied at 3 all in the second half. That's the last time I was called for anything to do with the SLRFU," said Marco.
Marco says that it is disheartening to hear that players are making money a big issue when representing or choosing clubs. Marco, 46 today, opines that a player will get what he deserves if he continues to love the game and be involved with it. He says that no one should demand anything from the sport. When asked what the greatest thing he has got from rugby, Marco said simply: "I have met some good people."
By Bernie Wijesekera
In recent times if New Zealand cricket has gone places, it's due to their cricket academy, which caters to the needs of the game at grassroots level, said former Kiwi Test star Brian Hastings when interviewed by The Sunday Times.
Hastings, is here to officiate as match referee for the Test series between Sri Lanka and S. Africa.
These observations were made by Hastings, whilst watching the two-day warm-up between the Board XI and S. Africa at the 'Sara' stadium.
Hastings, made his Test debut in 1969 against the West Indies, at Eden Park, Auckland. and retired in 1977. As a frontline batsman he played in the company of Glen Turner. He played in 32 Tests scoring four Test 100s with a highest score of 117 against the Windies at Christchurch. His first visit to Sri Lanka that, too as match referee. He was the match referee for Pakistan's home series against Sri Lanka, when the Lankans won 2-1.
Brian said the N.Z. Board made a determined effort to uplift the game at interrupted levels. Since Steve Rixon was assigned to coach the team at the national level it paid dividends.
But the youth had to be harnessed at grassroots level. In its wake came the Cricket Academy in 1996 and housed at the Lincoln University, Christchurch. The N.Z.Board never looked back since then. It was built in the lines of the Aussie Commonwealth Bank Academy, in Adelaide.
Fully equipped with all facilities - including six lanes, two first class grounds, plus live-in accommodation for 30. The men, who run its affairs are the seasoned ones with professional skills. The head of the academy is Dayle Hadlee, brother of legendary Richard. After several trials between the age groups 19-24 a squad is picked and undergo four months' training during the winter.
Its not confined to cricket alone. They are afforded to pursue an academic career, too. That means they have something to fall back after their cricketing career is over.Even the all blacks rugby, too is channelled on similar lines. Its concerted effort is initiated by NZB. Of course much encouragement and support is rendered by the well-wishers and sponsors for its continuity.
This is something that the Sri Lanka Board has been talking about for a long time, but still to become a reality due to narrow line of thinking and politics creeping into sports. If Sri Lanka is doing well it's not due to its infrastructure, but for the individual brilliance of the players.
It's never too late and they take a cue from other countries and harness the men that matters to run its affairs.
Hastings said it doesn't matter losing, but learn to play the game in the correct spirit as losing is part of the game, but not the end of the world.
This is one of the first disciplines in the academy.
Match Ref's role
What have you got to say about present-day cricket and the role played by a match referee? Today the game is, too professional with big money at stake unlike during our times. In its wake unwarranted problems are caused as a result - like match fixing, etc.
This could be overcome if the youngsters are taught the fundamentals at the start of their career. This should not be confined to sports alone, but in every walk of life.
At times the game was going a bit out of hand at the middle and even the umpires found doubly difficult to control due to misconduct in some quarters.
The ICC thought it fit to appoint match referees to oversee and send its findings for action if there was any unwarranted behavior for necessary action.
The match referee is a silent observer and makes sure that there is a trouble-free contest. Nothing to prevent teams playing hard, but not dirty. Cricket is still a gentleman's game and its traditions had to be treasured at all times.
Today the game is so competitive and the nations are really involved. I don't think its necessary to have both neutral umpires if the umpires act without fear or favour. They must have the strength and courage to withstand a gruelling contest, plus mental toughness.
There is no question of kissing going by favour or seniority. But men of ability are the ones who should be considered by the governing body.
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