Gampaha Sira best in Asia
The date: 13
Venue: Govt Services grounds, Parsons Road, Sir Chittampalam Gardiner
I was covering the Sri Lanka versus India Volleyball final. It was a
pleasant balmy evening. The entire ground, road adjoining the volleyball
court was filled to the capacity.
W L Siriwardana
There was cheering everywhere. The battle between India and Sri Lanka
was like ‘Greek meeting a Greek’. They were unbeaten sides.
Sri Lanka volleyball team was captained by Weliweriya Liyanage
Siriwardana. He hails from Gampaha. Volleyball and Gampaha were
synonymous. They were inseparable. It is with gratitude, I mention the
name T D L Charles who made volleyball popular in the Gampaha district
and also in the country during 1950-1970. He is considered as the father
of volleyball in Sri Lanka. T D L Charles was the volleyball guru of W L
Siriwardane and the Sri Lanka volleyball team. Then there was D C
Alahendra who coached and assisted the Sri Lanka volleyball team.
Arumugam, Secretary of VB Federation and Premadasa of Police were fine
Battle royal: SL-India
By 4.30 pm the two teams, India and Sri Lanka were introduced to
sports loving Leader of the Opposition Dr N M Perera. The first set was
on. It was a ding-dong battle. The game was electrifying and exciting.
Indian skipper, six and a half feet tall, majestic personality Bawa was
the key player in the Indian side. The Sri Lankan side was dominated by
two brothers – skipper W L Siriwardana and W L Piyaratne. The Sri Lankan
team covered the Indian dashes and at one time they dominated.
While passing the ball, players made very interesting remarks. The
massive crowd, was cheering all the way. The game was so thrilling, Dr N
M Perera, stood on his chair and started cheering.
Gampaha Sira at his best
Sri Lanka were leading 10-6. Indians found difficult to retrieve the
lightening dashes of Siriwardana, Piyaratne and south paw Cyril
Jayasinghe. The passing of the Sri Lankan players were excellent. Sira
was near the net. His brother, balanced the ball so well on the air and
gradually passed it to his elder brother Siriwardana. Piyaratne shouted.
The crowds were singing ‘hammer, hammer’.
In any sphere, immortality is no
easy achievement. The writer, painter, artist, composer,
sportsman or sportswoman live as long as their works and their
achievements are allowed to live. Leaders, productive citizens
who served their countries, war heroes, who sacrificed their
lives to safeguard territorial integrity of their motherland,
they too live after their death. Sri Lanka can proudly boast of
colourful sports personalities.
Their outstanding achievements never fade away. Their heroics
are ever remembered. For example, they become legends in their
own country. This series is exclusively to Daily News - a
tribute to our sporting legends, Sri Lanka and abroad.
History is a social process in which individuals are engaged as
social beings. What seems to me essential is to recognize in
great men, legends, heroes or icons, and outstanding
individuals, who at once the representative and creator of
social forces. Fragments of their achievements still remains
embelled in my memory.
To begin this series, I selected a colourful legend of our
times, in volleyball - as VB is the national game of Sri Lanka.
The giant Indian players were trying to cover Sira and Piyaratne
brothers’ dashes. Indian captain Bawa, and three players were guarding
near the net.
Time 5.05 13.10.1959
Suddenly Sira sprang up like a panther. Hammered a lightening ‘dash’.
It was like lightening. Bawa did not have a ghost of a chance. He tried
to cover his face. The power-packed lightening dash hit Bawa’s face and
the entire body was covered with blood. Bawa was felled like a big mara
tree. Blood was gushing out, oozing from his nose and mouth. The time
was exactly 5.05 pm. Bawa was rushed to hospital. Indians were shattered
and Sri Lanka won the three setter - 3-0, and annexed the title.
W L Siriwardene was the most colourful volleyball champion that Sri
Lanka produced up to date. I presume there is no one to match him and
surpass him. His ‘dashes’ are fantastic, unbelievable out of this world.
W L Siriwardana was born on June 19, 1938. His father was W L Carolis
Perera. Mother K A Caralina. They had three children- Ariyawathie Perera,
W L Siriwardana and W L Piyaratne.
Both brothers, late W L Siriwardana and W L Piyaratne, had the proud
distinction of leading the Sri Lanka volleyball team.
Charles - Sira’s guru-mentor
W L Siriwardana had his education at Bandarawatte Parakrama Junior
School. He started his volleyball career in 1950s, as a schoolboy. He
was coached by K A Rajapaksa, a teacher attached to Bandarawatta Maha
Vidyalaya. Under the captaincy of W L Siriwardana, they annexed the plum
of volleyball title.
While playing for school, he represented a club named Nandana
Volleyball Club, Ihalagama. While playing with seniors, ‘Maestro
Charles’ saw him, and through their ardent supporter S H Jayatilleke
Vedamahattaya of Gampaha.
W L Siriwardana (R) in action
One day he took Sira to Charles and introduced him. Siriwardana
joined the Central VB Club, Gampaha. This club was started by famous
volleyball stalwarts like J P Suriyapperuma, R A Abeyratne, and ‘setter’
H C Alfred. With the formation of Gampaha Central Volleyball Club, the
game became popular in Sri Lanka in 1950s.
W L Siriwardana won his Sri Lanka cap in 1954, when he captained
against the All-India team. He played alongside such reputed players
like L A D Premaratne (John Bosco), Batcho Dematagoda, Joe Rupesinghe (Kelani
Valley), W Wijesuriya (Sinhala SC, Trincomalee), Camillus Anthony (Tudella
SC), D Jayasekera (Lucky Six, Potupitiya), Lennie Jayakody, R Ratnapala,
Gamini Samarasinghe (Minuwangoda Central).
Wins Ayub Khan gold medal
In the 1959, South East Asian VB tournament held at Krachchi,
Pakistan, W L Siriwardana won the Best Player’s award, and President
Ayub Khan gold medal for the Best Dasher. The Sri Lanka VB team was
skippered by T D L Charles. The other members were Lennie Jayakody (vice
captain), Jackson Anthony, V H Jayasekera and W L Fernando.
Turns coach - referee - VB administrator
After retiring, W L Siriwardana became a volleyball coach, referee
and a fine administrator of the game.
He was a fine gentleman who possessed a golden heart. Unassuming W L
Siriwardana, is one of the most outstanding volleyball players, the best
dasher Sri Lanka produced. The players of this calibre saddle most of
the volleyball players.
Volleyball is the national sport in Sri Lanka. It is heartening to
note that men’s and women’s volleyball is played in various districts
today. To improve this game, you must catch the players young.
It is the duty of the Ministry of Education and the Sports Ministry
to take a lead role in assist and promoting this game in the island.
It is heartening to note an educated, honest, committed, dedicated,
dynamic young Minister Dilan Perera is taking all steps with President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to popularize this national game.