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Monday, 27 February 2012






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The success story of Kandy Sports Club

The year was 1992 and the only rugby playing club in the hill capital though in its 119th year of existence was fighting hard for its survival as its finances were at a very low ebb and the top ruggerites left the district in search of employment in Colombo either played for a Colombo based club or gave up rugby. But unknown to the Kandy Sports Club perched on the Nittawela hill, an area which was well-known for producing Kandyan dancers that a golden wind was blowing towards it – a wind that was to make a dramatic change of the success of the club and to take to the Himalayan heights.

That golden wind which blew over to the Nittawela Club was none other than former Royal College, Cr & FC and Sri Lanka scrum half Malik Samarawickrama who was also one time President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union. A dimunitive person and very soft spoken and hardly ever uses a hard word and takes everything in his stride but means business and if he wants to achieve anything and will achieve it at any cost. He has just two things in life one is his business which has made him a tycoon and the other, the love for rugby. He has achieved successes of the highest magnitude in both these spheres.

When this writer accosted him a few days back, he was hardly ready to speak and just smiled away. It was with a lot of persuasion that he decided to speak out and debunked some of the theories put out by his antagonists.

He said why he came to Kandy was to open up garment factories which had a lot of scope in the hill capital and to give employment to the youth of the area. He had his early education in Kandy and he had sweet memories of his childhood days in the hill capital and this still lingers in his mind. Being a lover and student of rugby, he saw the struggle Kandy Sports Club was undergoing. The potential was there to make it a leading club but they needed the propping up to use a rugby parlance. The grounds was located in a magnificent environment. But it did not have the resources to develop and the end appeared to be not very far away unless it was helped out.

As a first step he donated the much needed goal posts to the club replacing the one which had seen better days. By this the clubs which played rugby in the top division like Dickoya, Dimbula, Uva and Kelani Valley had stopped playing at that level. Kandy RFC had amalgamated with Kandy SC to avoid the dilution of talent and also to pool their resources.

Malik Samarawickrema had the vision of making Kandy Sports Club, the leading rugby playing club in the country and make the game very popular in the hill capital. At that time many would have thought that it was only a ‘pipe dream’ and this giant set his goals towards it.

As a first step he provided employment to ruggerites in his two garment factories in the hill country and this put an end to the exodus of rugby players from Kandy to Colombo. Next many who were playing for the Colombo Clubs wanted to play in Kandy where they learnt their rugby. The way they went some of these rugby players returned to Kandy and no one could begrudge that. He asked a pertinent question, can anyone stop someone from returning home and some of them came with their friends. This is a natural process.

With these ruggerites around 8 of them, Kandy Sports Club formed a strong side. They also initially had the services of two crowd pulling Fijian ruggerites in Kitioni Ratrudradra and Bati Penaia and this was a new experience for Kandy. Crowds started swelling and the gate collections soared. The enthusiasm was so great that some of the spectators waited in the queue from early afternoon to purchase their tickets and to take up vantage positions in the ground. What a transformation it turned out to be. That was in 1992.

Kandy Sports Club won its first trophy in 1992 and in the following year won two more but Malik Samarawickrema was not satisfied. He told the Committee and the ruggerites that winning a trophy here and there should not be the goal, there should be consistency. They should not rest in their laurels but maintain their winning streak. This was the lifeblood he injected into the ruggerites and this made them ‘tick’.

At that time many thought that Malik Samarawickrema was backing a losing horse or even a dead horse, but he proved his detractors wrong. His dynamism showed to the world that how dedication, application and with a single goal could achieve astounding success – success beyond expectations.

This is the success story of Kandy Sports Club and its Trustee or a better word for him ‘Patron Saint’ have achieved. Though Kandy is a small town last it set a Sri Lankan record in having the highest gate collection for a rugby match.

It is not only winning trophies which was the objective of Malik Samarawickrema, he developed the infrastructure and rehabilitated the playing field with imported grass and beneath it humus and other soft materials which made the ground soft and the players do not get injured. All-round there are covered terraces and pavilions and one of them built in the style of Twickenham.


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