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The Sunday TimesPlus

6th April 1997



Big Match Fever
No spoil sport: where have all the traditions gone?


An alarming trend of big-match violence raises troubling questions

After battle bruise

By Shelani de Silva

In the good old days a big match was an event looked forward to, not only by the boys, past and present, but also by their families, mothers, fathers and sisters. But the stark reality today is that the number of incidents occurring in and outside the grounds have marred the spirit of the sportive minds and the match goers

Battle of the Blues Ends in Minor Battle ...Students Arrested In Aftermath of Match Battle....Violence Breaks After Cricket Match..

These were some of the headlines in the newspapers during the big match season of the past few weeks. Sadly, instead of the victories and defeats, what was highlighted was the violence.

The recurrence of so much violence was the concern of many.

Gone are the days when the big matches were conducted in pure carnival atmosphere.

In the good old days a big match was an event looked forward to, not only by the boys, past and present, but also by their families, mothers, fathers and sisters . But the stark reality today is that the number of incidents occurring in and outside the grounds have marred the spirit of the games.

Last week, in a bizarre turn of events, students after a big match were alleged to have forced their way into the accident service of the National Hospital, causing damage to the premises and injuring Accident Service personnel.

Some viewed this not just as only an indisciplinary act but also claimed that the big match revellers had taken the law unto their hands.

While many felt that liquor was the root for the violence, others pointed out that school authorities should take firm action to keep school boys from getting involved in ugly brawls. Whatever it may be, it is frightening to note that violence is slowly and steadily creeping into the cricket field.

The violence clearly indicates that the true spirit of sportsmanship no longer exists. The whole idea of the big matches, cricket apart, is to emphasise and continue the bonds and friendship between two schools. If indiscipline and violence are allowed to continue, then where will these hallowed traditions find a place?

Violence for us is nothing new. We live with it daily. We do not have to go years back, but need only to take a look at the recent Local Government Elections to get a clearer picture. Thus living in such an atmosphere some might claim that it is natural for violence to break out at big matches. But that, is no excuse.

Not even a month has passed since the Royal Thomian and the officials have already decided to adopt new strategies to avoid violence at next year's matches.

"We are seriously making plans to strike a balance between enjoyment and conducting a decent game," explained Mr. Mahen Perera Secretary, Royal College Old Boys Union.

Admitting that there was an increase in violence this year Mr. Perera said that most of it occurred due to boys running on to the field often.

As for the fights occurring at the grounds, Mr. Perera was of the view that it is a reflection of the general culture of violence pervading the country .It is simply filtering down to school levels, he said.

However, Rector of St. Joseph's College Rev Fr. Victor Silva took the view that it all centred around the ethics and morals one cultivates, and stressed that there was no serious violence at the Joe-Pete match.

Fr. Silva who has been a part of big matches for the last 14 years said that there is no rise in violence but definitely an increase in the consumption of liquor and the related incidents.

Can liquor be the cause for the increasing violence?

Principal of Royal College Mr. S. H. Kumarasinghe said he felt it was time to review the nature of the matches where he felt that old boys were more to blame for the rise in violence.

The Royal Thomian according to him has today become a national event where "there is no control over anything. Especially liquor. It is sold only at our match. It is supposed to be a tradition. But what many fail to understand is whether it is worth to expose our younger generation to all the violence for the sake of merrymaking and traditions," he queried.

Bandula Warnapura, well known commentator and former captain of the national team, comparing the atmosphere in the days gone by, said that the main reason for the increase in violence is the security situation in the country. "Even when it comes to liquor, unlike in earlier days, today there are wine stores at every nook and corner. During my time it was clean fun, but today it is unsportive and ugly", he said.

Mr. Warnapura too cited the disturbance caused by boys running on to the field. Generally, this happens only when a century is scored but now every ten minutes we find boys on the pitch. It is worse because they are all drunk. They are so wild. What should be highlighted is that while the spectators are given freedom to enjoy themselves at the match, similarly the players too should be given the correct atmosphere in which to play the game," he stressed.

Ex -President of St. Peter's College Old Boys' Union SSP Camillus Abey-goonewardene who was largely responsible for controlling the famous big match truck violence suggested that the problems were mostly caused by the large crowds and this could be easily avoided if the matches are held in big grounds like the Kettarama where security is inbuilt. Ofcourse, some might not be in favor of this, but taking into consideration the growing violence, it should be the best solution, he said.

The Sunday Times also spoke to many parents who were horrified by the emerging trend of violence. They expressed their fear about sending their children to the once fun filled event of the year.

"There are many school boys involved in fights. Many make use of the matches to take their personal grudges," said a parent, Iresha Perera.

Can the big matches ever return to the true spirit of sportsmanship? Harking back to the old days alone will not suffice. What's obviously required is for the authorities to take stock and stem the rot before it is too late and traditions nurtured over the years disappear overnight.

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