Airtel provides a welcome opportunity for young footballers
Although coming from St.Benedict’s College, Kotahena, famous for
football, my first love in sports was cricket where I represented my
school, my second love was football, known in Sri Lanka as the poor
man’s game. In the 1950s and ‘60s, SBC regularly produced artistic
players and champion teams, which was the envy of not only other
schools, but also clubs. The coach who produced the players and teams
was the late and great Albert Fernando, the only coach to have a
Brazilian and German coaching licence.But in recent times the football
in the country and the management has come in for bit of criticism, some
of which is valid but most not. This is because the national teams have
not been doing too well.
There was a time when the national teams could have been classed with
the best in Asia. That was because there were players who were naturally
brilliant. But that's a tribe that has fast disappeared from our scene
now. Sadly, I must add.There were even moves to dissolve the Football
Federation led by the disgruntled. Had that happened it would have been
the death knell for the game's propagation in the country.
Thankfully it did not happen and we hope it would not in the future
as well.Now comes the great news that Airtel Sri Lanka has partnered the
Football Federation of Sri Lanka and MP Namal Rajapaksa’s ‘Tharunyata
Hetak’ Foundation to start the ‘Airtel Rising Stars’ - a rigorous
scouting scheme to spot talent in the country.
To Old Trafford
This scheme will run through August covering 14 centres in Sri Lanka
after which 12 youngsters will be picked and they will proceed to Old
Trafford, the home of the famous Manchester United for a week long
Present at the inauguration ceremony of this scheme held at the
Cinnamon Grand were – Bharat Bambawale, Director Global Brand,Bharti
Airtel, Dwight Yorke, Manchester United’s football legend, Namal
Rajapaksa,MP, and Chairman, ‘ Tharunyata Hetak’, Manilal Fernando, FIFA
Executive Member, Ricki Thussu, Relationship Director, Manchester United
and Suren Goonewardene, CEO and Managing Director, Bharti Airtel
Lanka.Bambawale who is close friend of the famous Brian Lara, said that
this is a great opportunity for the youngsters and he hopes that the
youngsters will take full advantage of this opportunity and become
Attorney at Law, Manilal Fernando who has done yeoman service for the
game here, which was acclaimed by FIFA in appointing him to their ExCo
---an honour to Sri Lanka--thanked MP Rajapaksa for joining hands with
them and providing good support to take the game to the top again.
Fernando who was also a former Vice President of the Asian Football
Confederation said that the selection process in picking youngster to
Old Trafford will be done by three selectors.
He promised transparency and the best and the most rewarding will be
picked for this once in a life time experience.Incidentally Fernando is
the only Sri Lankan to be a Vice President of AFC and Executive Member
of FIFA the governing body for world football. All Sri Lanka should be
proud of this honoured son.
Umpire Anandappa passes away
It is with sadness we record the passing away of one of the pioneer
umpires of Sri Lanka Cricket Ignatius Anandappa at 73 after a brief
illness. Anandappa sported the umpire’s coat just before Sri Lanka
attained Test status and did a job that was difficult to the best of his
His decisions were well received by the cricketers he ruled out and
none complained. As an international umpire he stood in Three Test
matches and several one-day internationals.
He joined the umpiring fraternity after a successful cricketing
career at Maris Stella College, Negombo with his brother Remy. He is
best remembered when he stood in a Test match against New Zealand at the
SSC and ran into a bit of controversy. It was not his fault.
A fielder took a bump catch off the bat of New Zealand skipper Martin
Crowe and urged on by some of his team mates flung the ball up and
appealed for the catch insisting that he took it clean. Unsighted and
going by the honesty of the fielder, Anandappa who was the head umpire
ruled Crowe out. But what followed was drama.
Crowe who was convinced that the ball was taken off the ground, stood
his ground and refused to take the long walk back.
It was pandemonium. TV replays showed that the ball had hit the
ground before the catch was taken. With the crowd jeering the fielder,
saner counsel prevailed and Sri Lanka had to tuck their tails and
withdraw the appeal.
Crowe followed with a wonderful century and although New Zealand lost
having been depleted because most of their best players had taken wing
back home due to a bomb blast, earned the respect of all.
That incident was a black mark on the Lankan game and is often the
topic of discussion by cricketers. It was poor sportsmanship and should
top the list when the scorer comes to write about poor and degrading
sportsmanship in the game.
Anandappa was a close friend of mine and he regretted the poor
sportsmanship of the player concerned and those who urged him to insist
that the catch was taken clean.
After hanging up the ‘white coat’, he held office in the Umpires’
Association and served to the best of his ability.
He was involved in picking the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the
year’ for many years and was missed by the panel that met on Friday to
pick the award winners. Umpiring it is said is a sacred duty and the
Lord would have welcomed him to his field for the sacred job well done.