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M. T. Fernando - versatile sportsman, administrator and referee



Manage Tomlin Fernando

Very rarely, we come across, versatile sportsmen. It is undoubtedly a rare gift. Today, I feature a highly versatile sportsman and an administrator who is presently functioning as Director Competitions - Football Federation of Sri Lanka.

His name is Manage Tomlin Fernando, popularly known as MT.

He represented St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya in cricket, rugby football, and athletics. Some of his contemporaries who played cricket with him are Michael Chanmugam, Dion Walles, Aubrey Weiman and H. I. K. Fernando.

Some teammates in the rugby football team are Ago Paiva (captain), Harold Silva and Shokman brothers who later represented Havelocks Sports Club.

"I became a true sportsman at St. Peter's College. I am indebted to my school in making me a man. At college my rugby football coach was Achibald Perera, the famous Sri Lanka stand-off, who captained CR & FC. I was specially trained under a former Army Commander and Sri Lanka cricketer B. R. Heyn. He was my mathematics teachers. After leaving school, I joined CR and FC with Ago Paiva.

"To find a place in CR & FC side was not that easy. We were very fortunate, we came under stalwarts like Archibald Perera, Mahes Rodrigo, Summa Navaratnam, William Molligoda, Rudra Rajasingham and Ray de Silva. I am very happy that I played along with my college captain Ago Paiva.

Loads of experience

The Director Competitions - Football Federation of Sri Lanka, have loads of experience in administration and organisation of the game. The experiences and the knowledge he gained in serving as senior executive level at Steel Corporation, State Hardware Corporation, State Flour Milling Corporation, Tobacco Industrial Corporation and State Pharmaceutical Corporation.

First love - soccer

MT's first love was the poor man's game - soccer. He represented Anuradhapura district in the CFA inter-district tournament.

"I was a regular member of the Steel Corporation Football team. Among the other players who were playing for Steel Corporation were players of the calibre of Edward Wickramasooriya and A. Zainulabdeen. Both captained Sri Lanka soccer teams later.

Innovative ideas are amazing

M. T. Fernando is a person who had innovative ideas and he was a fine sports administrator. Not only in soccer, he was the man who was responsible in introducing Kabaddi to Sri Lanka. His track record as a sports administrator is amazing.

What a track record

For 15 years, continuously, he functioned as the Secretary of Dehiwela/Mount Lavinia Football League. Then, he served as the secretary of the Nationalised Services Soccer Association. He was the secretary of the Sri Lanka Amateur Kabaddi Association for 10 years and the Secretary General of the Asian Amateur Kabbadi Federation for 4 years. He served as the Secretary of the Football Federation for 2 years, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Football Referees Association for 8 years. Added to it, he was the Chairman, Referees Committee.

This many faceted sports promoter and administrator is always like to take challenges. He was one who gave official status to another sports discipline - Tug-of-War. Today, he is the secretary of Tug-of-War Federation.

M. T. Fernando, is a dedicated sportsman, administrator whose honesty and integrity is of the highest level. He is a disciplined man, a thorough gentleman and a fine human being.

I do not think that there is any other sports administrator or official today, who is so qualified technically in the particular sports discipline, he is involved.

Unassuming M. T. Fernando is a FIFA referee for 10 years. He is the first Sri Lankan referee to officiate in the first AFC Asian Cup championship held in Kuwait, and the first Sri Lankan referee to officiate in the President's Cup championship in Korea.

"As a FIFA referee, I have officiated in Thailand, Kuwait, UAE, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany and South Korea and I gained tons of experiences," said Fernando. After retirement as a FIFA referee, the Asian Football Confederation, appointed him as a referees instructor.

"I think our referees do a thankless and rewardless job. As administrators of soccer, we must elevate their standards," stated Fernando.

Further, he is an international referee in Kabbadi. He officiated at the SAF Games finals between Pakistan and India at Chennai. He was also the main referee at the finals between India and Pakistan, which was held in Hiroshima, Japan. He is a referee instructor of World Kabaddi Federation and an international Tug-of-War referee. His name will go down in the sports history as the man who introduced kabaddi to Sri Lanka.

As far as soccer is concerned names like V. A. Sugathadasa, R. Premadasa, K. B. Ratnayake, Manilal Fernando and M. T. Fernando will live until such time soccer is played in Sri Lanka. They contributed a lot to promote the game locally and internationally. M. T. Fernando hails from Mount Lavinia. His father's name - M. Peter Fernando, mother - Alice Fernando. His elder brothers - Sunny Fernando, Leslie Fernando, and Ealian Fernando. His beloved wife's name - Grace Fernando.

"I introduced the game of Kabaddi to Sri Lanka. This game was very popular few years back. Unfortunately, due to sports politics the game has now come to a dead end. Last year I have taken much trouble to propagate the sport of Tug-of-War which is now a Olympic sports and a world sport. Now we have a Federation and I hope to make it very popular in Sri Lanka so that our boys and girls could not only play the game but also very soon participate at international level and bring honour to our country," said Fernando.

"My view about present day football. Much is written and said, but my candid opinion about this game is that it has gone forward by leaps and bounds. The game and its administration has changed from our time to this day. It also keeps changing. The game of football played two decades ago in Europe is not the same today. Techniques has changed. Science has come to play. Many aspects are being studied by individuals and groups who find ways and means of improving the game and making it more popular and attractive. Hence we cannot just sit back on our laurels and say that our standards are poor. It is a must that we make the necessary changes in respect of the game and its administration. This is what the present Football Federation is doing. It is good to criticise but it must be constructive," stated Fernando.

My hope

"The sports administrators in the country has come to a very low level. It is time that something is done as early as possible. The simple reason for this problem is that the administrators are not sportsmen.

"We must do away with the existing sports law. A national sports development programme is the only solution," stated Fernando.

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