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23rd January 2000

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Women power in China

It was very much a case of the same old story as Chinese captain Sun Wen clutched the Asian Women's Championship trophy after her side's comfortable 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the final of last year's event.

In the small, provincial Philippine city of Bacolod, a 50-minute flight south of Manila, it was the tale that had been told after the championship in Guangzhou three years ago. Two years before that, in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia it was more of the same and so on, back until 1986, in Hong Kong, when China entered the tournament for the first time and defeated Japan in the final.

Chinese Taipei dominated the Asian Women's Championships in the pre-China days, winning three of the first four titles while New Zealand and Thailand are also among the former champions. But since the Thais claimed the trophy in 1983, no name other than China's has found it's way onto the impressive piece of silverware.

To maintain any kind of dynasty requires something special - a passion, a hunger that can never be quenched when time and time again victory is all that will satisfy. Class and ability are additional factors that, of course, can never be ruled out but the desire to succeed as opposed to the ability to do so is the thing that separates the merely good from the truly great.

In the domain of women's football, China have more than earned their place in the Asian hall of footballing fame. Seven Asian Women's Championships, three Asian Games gold medals, runners-up in the Women's World Cup in the USA during the summer and a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 - It's an honours list as impressive as any nation's in either the men's or women's game. But how did China become such a football force? And how do they maintain their dominance?

"Before this World Cup the team was getting more confident and we beat the US in the Algarve Cup (an annual tournament for women's football in Portugal) twice, which gave us even more confidence and, more importantly, we played modern tactical football.

"At the 1995 World Cup we scored six goals but conceded 10. In the 1996 Olympics we scored 10 but conceded five. In this World Cup we scored 19 and conceded only two, so we have effective attacking play but also a more effective defence. Our team scored the most and conceded the least but in some specific matches some players showed a lack of confidence. So I asked the players to not pay attention to the result, don't think about the result - that will affect the performance, especially the reaction to losing. In my opinion, I was very satisfied with the performance at the World Cup but still we need to take a small step to improve".

It's something of which the players are well aware. The coach's opinions are echoed by both Sun and the veteran midfielder Liu Ailing. The latter has played in three World Cups and is still regarded as one of the best female players on the planet.

"We have some talented players in the team like Sun Wen and Wang Lipeng," say Liu. "Each player has her own individual personality to play the game, so each player must show her personality when she plays. That comes through in different ways in each game and we try to play according to the instructions of the coach. That's why we are among the best teams in the world. I think our team-work is the best in the world.

"We must become strong to overcome ourselves. In the (Women's World Cup) final we had that problem at the beginning of the game and we didn't play at 100 per cent of our ability. But later in the game we started to concentrate on the game and the problem disappeared".

"We were satisfied with how we played, especially in the big games against teams like Norway," says Sun of the World Cup. "We took great pride in showing what we were capable of in these games. On the other hand we were disappointed with our performance in the final, but we lost to the champions. We felt we could have had a better performance than we did in the final but the problem was the weather, the pressure from the big crowd and also the importance of the game. Those reasons meant that both teams could have performed better and it was a real shame that we could not show the real beauty of the sport."

China's loss on penalties on July 12 to the Americans was the closest Ma's side had ever come to defeating the US in the latter stages of a major tournament. His team have inched closer and closer over the years and Liu, who is likely to make her final appearances for the side in Sydney next year, is confident the Olympics will finally see China smash the jinx once and for all.

"lt's not just about facing strong teams like the USA because the results of soccer are unexpected. The main thing is to grow psychologically. It's not about beating the USA, it's about us. A strong mentality, that's the most important thing for the team.

"Although China is one of the best teams in the world, we don't take it for granted that we will win. We have to consider the abilities of our opponents otherwise we could be punished for being over-confident but we have already left a good impression on the world, we just want to make sure that people see us play in more interesting games. But I don't think that the US will be as lucky next time as they were (at the World Cup). We think we'll have a good result in the Olympics."

Jaffna Police champs

In 1973 Jaffna Police created history by winning the annual Police Inter Division rugby Championship held at Police Grounds Bambalapitiya and annexed the Layards Cup and also won the Kavan Rambukwella Challenge trophy which was presented for the first time by Kavan Rambukwella who was the police coach since 1968, for the best outstation team.

This year I decided to captain the Jaffna team as in the previous years. I coached the Jaffna side full of raw recruits and they did creditably well to enter the finals and lost due to inexperience and some silly mistakes and had to be content with the C.P Wambeck Cup for being runners-up.

The Jaffna seven-a-side rugger team which has created a great impression in the Layards Cup tournament during the previous 2 years were again the favourite among the spectators who came in their thousands to Police Park to witness this annual Police rugby tournament which is one of the oldest rugby tournaments introduced in the twenties by the British Police officers during the Colonial days.

This year I mixed youth with experience in the Jaffna team and brought in B.B Sourjah who was the kicking sensation in the Police rugby team which I captained in the Clifford Cup tournaments and also had "Tipper" Samath who played as scrum half in the same Police teams who was very nippy. This paid dividends. The other players in the champion Jaffna team were S.K Basnayake, C. Murugesu, K.M Anthony, P.G Karunaratne, T.S Sadiyan and K.S Stanley.

When the Jaffna team arrived on the first day of the tournament at the Police Grounds Ivor Van Twest who was D.I.G Northern Range met the team and told me that we should win the Kavan Rambukwella Challenge Cup which was on offer for the first time for the best outstation team as it was more beautiful and bigger than the Layards Cup which was awarded to the champion team. But I was confident of winning the Championship and assured him that we will win both the Layards Cup and the Kavan Rambukwella Cup.

The tournament was worked out for two days and true to my undertaking given to D.I.G Van Twest, the Jaffna team led by me entered the finals defeating Depot Police in the Semi Finals and again Matara too entered the finals having beaten the youthful Police Training School after extra time.

In the finals between Jaffna and Matara like in the previous year Jaffna dominated play and beat the Matara team by 15 points to 12 points. The "Daily News" of 28.2. 73 reported on this match thus:- "Jaffna beat Matara in Rugby Thriller". The Jaffna Police "Seven" skippered by S. Sivendran won the Layards Cup at the Police Inter District Seven a side rugby competition worked off at the Police Grounds Bambalapitiya on Saturday. In the final Jaffna Police beat Matara Police by 15 points to 12 points after a keenly contested battle. Matara were last year's champions.

The Jaffna Police team were adjudged the best outstation team too and were awarded the Kavan Rambukwella Cup.

Matara and Police Training School figured in a tie even after extra time but on the toss of a coin Matara won and entered the final. Jaffna beat Depot Police in the other semi final. At the conclusion of the final Mr. Stanley Senanayake. I.G.P awarded the trophies and Certificates.

Before I was posted to Jaffna in 1970, the Jaffna Police continuously took part in the Layards Cup Tournaments in Colombo just for the sake of participating without any serious practice and treated the trip to Colombo as a holiday outing and took to the field amidst shouts of "Thal Rah" which meant palmyrah toddy and were knocked out in the first round itself and made their way back to Jaffna. But in 1973 the Champion Jaffna team which beat all the best teams from Colombo, C.I.D Depot and Police Training School, who dominated the tournament from the inception , was being treated to champagne by D.I.G in charge of Jaffna Ivor Van Twest, a great lover of sports.

During this period the Police structure had changed in Jaffna with J.D.M Ariyasinghe taking over as S.P Jaffna replacing R.Sunderalingam who held the post for several years. The A.S.P's in Jaffna then were A.S.P S.G Munasinghe and A.S.P J.V.B. Perera. Tony Mahath who was H.Q.I Matara in 1972 was promoted as A.S.P and was posted as A.S.P K.K.S H.Q.I Jaffna was Nalin Perera who succeeded Upali Wijeratne who was promoted as A.S.P and posted as A.S.P C.D.B in Colombo.

During the middle part of 1973 I too bade farewell to Jaffna and was posted to Vauniya.

Lankan youth on song

Although the wet weather has somewhat dampened the early games, the Under Nineteen World Cup games are gathering momentum. Of course wet weather does not provide conditions ideal for one day cricket, with not the best prepared pitches and damp and slow outfields. However, as I write the weather too is on the mend and the better teams are gradually beginning to take the lead.

Spare a thought for the South Africans who got bowled out by the rains. They were so very unfortunate to have two games rained off. They have to bear part of the blame too. In their opening game against novices Nepal they elected to bat, ran up a huge 295 runs, but then managed to bowl only 13 overs as the rains came down. They should have had the foresight to install the weak opposition in and get the points on the board. Had they been looking for batting practice then that is stupid because winning is what is important against weak opposition in a short competition - and in particular when it happens to be a World Cup. Further, what batting practice do you gain against an absolutely weak bowling attack?

Host nation Sri Lanka have been polishing off opposition in ruthless and efficient style. They have fielded first in their five games todate and that has helped. With all the rain around the ball has been seaming around during the early part of all games. Every opposition has struggled against the accurate seam attack of the local side.

The reasonably sharp Prabath Nissanka has been impressive at the top of the bowling line-up. He has been both accurate and successful in picking up early wickets. The other medium pacers Kaushalya Weeraratne, Ian Daniel have been equal to the task. It is very important that bowlers deliver accurate stuff in the initial fifteen overs while all the field restrictions are in effect. Disciplined bowling is required during the early stages to curb the batsmen from hitting the ball into gaps and over the top of the infield.

The spinners in all teams have to play a major role. On most pitches in this country accurate spin bowlers are a greater asset than medium pacers who attempt to keep the ball on a spot. Batsmen need to use their feet cleverly when playing on the slightly slower pitches here so that they are in a position to play the ball without mistiming it.

Ranil Dammika is a promising left arm spin bowler and he heads that department. Then there is all-rounder Muthumudalige Pushpakumar, leg spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi and the other left armer Mevan Fernando, who all at their age group are adequately good spin bowlers. Pushpakumara has got a big break by being picked into the national squad to tour Pakistan. The fact that the selectors have placed faith in him at such a young age speaks volumes of his talent and ability.

The batting has not been really tested upto now. The highest score chased has been the 134 made by Ireland in the opening game. It means that the middle order has not got sufficient time in the centre. It could put some pressure when required to bat first and get the runs on the board. They must mentally prepare themselves that, when required they must make every effort to accumulate runs and play long innings.

The batting is strong Kaushalya Weeraratne, Ian Daniel, Jehan Mubarak, Thilina Kandamby, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, skipper Malintha Gajanayake are all technically sound players. Daniel has batted well on his visits to the crease so far. They will all be tested come the semi-final.

Whilst many of the players are on the verge of International careers, with promising futures there are many stars of the past putting them through their paces. Rod Marsh (Australia), D.S. de Silva (Sri Lanka), Moshin Khan and Moshin Kamal (Pakistan), Roger Binny (India), Tony Opatha (Holland), Tim Boou and James Whitakar (England), Haroon Rashid (Nepal), Gus Logie (West Indies), Dayle Hadlee (New Zealand), all form a very strong team of Managers / Coaches. That is the way the cycle turns - there will be many from these teams who will go on to perform great deeds in the future.

Marvan's fine gesture

Marvan Atapattu, one of Sri Lanka's frontline batsmen undoubtedly is a fine cricketer to hail from Ananda.

Knowing Marvan, as a juvenile cricketer he has given marvellous performances in this willow wielding sport. Like religion cricket is also a way of life. He maintains a high standard of sportsmanship. Firstly, a gentleman and then a cricketer for Atapattu, who hails from Matara, is like the present skipper Sanath Jayasuriya.

Atapattu, has the qualities to emerge as a future captain, and commands respect all-round.

His honesty and integrity in the recent cricket tour of Zimbabwe, won much admiration for the country and for himself. Marvan, who was the "Man of the Match" for his exploits in the second Test was awarded Zimbabwe $10,000/-.

After receiving this award he found that he has received US $ 10,000/- instead of Z.W. 10,000/- which is equal to S.L Rs. 20,000/-.

But ironically the organisers, instead have erred and given US Dollars 10,000/- which is equal to S.L Rs. 740,000/-.

Promptly he returned the excess money to the Zimbabwe C.A. A fine gesture indeed. To Marvan money is not the thing in life, but honesty and integrity is his codeword. He is employed at Sampath Bank. BW


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