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
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
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
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.