H G Ariyaratne - a sportsman and coach par excellence
Former Director of Sports of the Central Province Ministry of Sports
H G Ariyaratne was an excellent sportsman and an able administrator to
come out of the portals of Vidyartha College, Kandy.
He took to rugby and cricket at a very early age and captained the
school in both sports which is a very rare achievement and also excelled
at athletics and hockey.
He said that he captained the school rugby team at the age of 17 in
1969 and played for the school from 1965 to 1971, as a flanker. While
still in school he turned out for Kandy Sports Club in the premier rugby
He captained the school rugby team in 1970. He was a middle order
batsman and a spinner.
But it was as a rugby player that he made his mark. He played for
Kandy Sports Club, Havelocks Sports Club and CH and FC and also one
season for the 'Merrie Men of Uva'. He represented the President's XV in
a rugby match against Dubai Exiles at Nittawela in the seventies and was
also in the national rugby pool and a standby in one of the
Ariyaratne was a tireless flanker and played most of his matches for
Kandy Sports Club.
Those were the days, the club did not have money and they had to
spend their own money when playing matches both in Kandy and in places
like Dickoya, Dimbulla and Uva and even Colombo. At times they pooled
their money to pay the caretaker.
The club's coffers were empty as the gate collections were very
little and even the bar did not have stocks of liquor. Often they filled
empty foreign and local liquor bottles with water and kept them on show
in the racks.
This was just to impress the visitors. The club functioned only
during the rugby season.
Those were the hard days of Kandy Sports Club he said. On some days
they even plant grass and water the grounds to make it fit for the next
We toiled for the club. When we were short of players, we took
schoolboy ruggerites into our team and even assured them of their safety
during matches from bullies.
In one club match, one such bully was frightening our players with
some hard tackles, the little schoolboys were frightened to face this
ruggerite who appeared to be having his own way.
There was nothing illegal but he was taking advantage of the
situation and this had to be stopped. When this bully next time got the
ball and was fending off tackles with one hand whilst slicing through
the defence, he accosted this player with the ball and gave him a very
hard tackle which sent him sprawling and took a little time to be on his
feet. This incident made him feel that he had met his match and stopped
bullying the young ruggerites.
His first appointment was with the Ministry of Sports and was based
at Hanguranketha and those days Saturday was a half working day and he
had to rush immediately after work to play for Kandy SC and hardly had
the time to have lunch.
"It is with that love and dedication that we played for Kandy SC and
it is because of my rugby that I climbed the ladder of success in my
Attached to the Ministry of Sports, he went on a 2 1/2 year
scholarship on athletic coaching and training to Gutenberg University in
Germany where he was able to learn many things in athletics.
One of Ariyaratne's greatest achievements was spotting of Manoharan
as long distance runner from a plantation in Ragala. Manoharan went on
to win a silver medal in marathon at the SAF Games held in 2001.
He said that his father had a boutique at Ragala town and one day
during one of his weekend visits to see the family, he heard a humble
labourer telling his father, "My son can run well and he beats everyone
in the estate but being estate workers, we have no chance to sow that we
also can run." He overheard this conversation and was moved by it. He
immediately brought this plantation worker's son under his charge and
put him through his paces and he brought a silver medal to Sri Lanka. In
other words he was the second fastest runner of marathon in South Asia.
In one year 38 runners from the plantations participated at the
provincial meet through the efforts made by him. The talent is there in
plantations and rural areas, we go looking for it.
He also coached Vidyartha College at rugby and one of his products
was former Minister of Sports C B Ratnayake who played as a stand off
for the school.
Another incident he would not like to forget was one day Vidyartha
College did not have rugby balls to practice and he approached late
Bertie Dias who was the coach at Trinity College at that time. He asked
for one ball but he received six balls. When he asked when can he
returned them, late Bertie Dias' reply was, "For God's sake have them
for good in the name of rugby. By giving these balls, we are only trying
to help another school to find its feet at rugby. God helps those who
help others," he said. Such was the generosity of this great sportsman
who was a much respected ruggerite, coach and referee.
From a sports officer he rose up to the ranks of District Sports
Officer in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy and ended up as the Provincial
Director of Sports.
He also played a major role in the organizing of the National Sports
in Kandy in 2010 as the Director of Sports for Central Province.
Though he had done weightlifting Federation and did a lot to take the
'iron sport' to the rural areas.
Last year he retired from Government Service and Ariyaratne is now
the athletic coach of Trinity College.