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Sri Lanka's international approach in football with Tom Ossen

Tom Ossen, a product of Dharmaraja College, was the man who led the Sri Lanka football team in the first ever tour of the Far East in 1958. During that period, Tom Ossen was attached to the Kandy Municipal Council as playgrounds master and played football for Young Stars Sports Club and Kandy League.

Though he is no more, his service for football is remembered. In 1958 when the Sri Lanka Football team toured far east. It was Tom Ossen who was invited to lead the country. Later he was the coach of the Peradeniya University, Kandy Association Football League and a top grade FIFA referee. He handled the whistle in many games, at club and International level. In the good old days, tours were limited, not like today. Nowadays there are plenty of tours, thanks to Manilal Fernando who opened the good will gate for overseas tournaments in Sri Lankan football.


The 1995 SAAR C Bristol Gold Cup winning team with the coach and manager

This first ever tour took place in 1958, where a twenty member team left the Katunayake Air Port on a six weeks tour of China via Rangoon. This tour was organized by the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka. At that time football was the most popular sport in the country.

Tom Ossen who had been playing for the country from 1952, was a top class player. He was famous for ball control and also was a team man. Before this tour, Tom led the Sri Lanka team against Madras. At that time football matches were played against Indian teams like Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, Delhi etc. After Manilal Fernando came, our teams toured every where football is played.

On this tour of Far East, Tom's deputy was Andrew Fernando, who was just a year junior to Tom at National level. In the previous year, 1957 Andrew Fernando had helped the Lankan team to beat Burma together with another Kandy product T.O.M Marikar Deen.

These two netted a goal each to give the country two goals to Burma's no score.

It was M.M. Hashimdeen of Victory FC and Ben Ferreira of Southern SC Galle who were the two goal keepers, Hashimdeen then known as the "Prince of goal keepers" had thrilled the spectators, on our soil and overseas with his superb job between the post.

The fullbacks were Christopher Ranasinghe, Bagoos Saldin, E.P. Solomon and Christopher Ransnghe, the last named had played for Sandhurst and the Army Southern Command. He was a fine fullback with powerful kicks. Bagos Saldin played for Old Joes SC was a crack fullback and E.P. Solomon played for Saunders FC, was the best left back at that time.

Besides Tom Ossen the captain, the other halves were M.P.B. Dissanayke, K.A.Premadasa, Eric Perera, and M.A.Karunarthne all were excellent players.

The later was known as the most scientific and stylish half-back in the Sri Lankan and Asia. M.P.B.Disanake played for All-In-One SC and then Erick Perera of Suanders FC was anther fine player. M.A.karunarthne was a product of Badulla.

The forwards line up were right extreme T.S. Jayman, the third product of Kandy in the team, came from Kingswod College Kandy who played for CR & FC. Then the left extreme was B.Ariyadasa of Sunders FC, who was also well known for his hard work. K.D.Soapal of Kotehena was tight inside, T.O.M. Mariakr Deen was the center forward. Left inside place was occupied by Policemen L. Bernadus Jnr from St.Benacict's College, and he also played for Rowland's SC. The team was under the watchful eyes of D.S. Abraham and this was the twenty which was on the historic tour.

1995 SAARC Bristol Goal Cup Champions - Sri Lanka

In 1995, under the captaincy of Sampath Perera, we won the Bristol SAARC Gold cup by beating India. The man behind this was Manilal Fernando and the others who gave the best of support to him were late J.N.S. Anandaraja, Chrysantha Perera, T. Wanigarthne who was the coach, George Ferreira as Technical Consultant, Harold Antony who was the manager of the team and the ex-co members.

The team was made out of players like Smpath Perera (Capt), Rohan Perera, M.Amanulla, M. Kabeer, Lalith Weersinghe, T.S.Gajanayake, J.Hasimdeen, Jagath Rohana, R.Wambeck, L.P. Perera, Sirisena Manjula, H.N.T.Gamage, P. Ferdinando, R.Imtiyaz, Ajith Prasana, M. Rafi, IlU Peeras, M. Riza, R.Hettiarchchi, D..Sugath, D. Sarath, S.M. Riswan and C. Stainwall.

It was a grand final. In this great final, to win the SAARC Bristol Cup, Sri Lanka had to beat India in the extra time. At that time, Sri Lanka had not been beaten by India since 1952. On the way to the finals Sri Lanka beat Nepal 2-1 and then came the Indian - Sri Lankan final.

I was their at the final as the Ex-co member together with my Ex-co committee friends Hurley Silveira and M. Premadasa. So, by now the interest was at fever pitch and the Sugathadasa Stadium was surrounded by tuk-tuks, motor cycles, push cycles, cars and other vehicles crammed with fans carrying flags and flares. The ground was full of its twenty-five thousand capacity and at round ten thousand more were locked out, causing problem for the security staff.

After a goal less first half, the heavens opened and lighting flashed all around the stadium. Surely the match would have to be abandoned under such conditions and the teams would have to share the prize as joint champions.

All credit went to George Joseph, the AFC's match commissioner from the Football Association of Malaysia. After consulting the local officials he held on for 45 stormy minutes until the rain relented.

Incredibly, the players were back out within a couple of minutes and the second half kicked off on a pitch which looked once the worse for the watery battering it had just taken.

No goals were scored in the 90 minutes, no sudden-death winner in the first period of extra time. Yet again found one, a Kandy product Sarath, who came into the game as a substitute on the 68th minute, for his first senior cap.

In the 108th minute, skipper Sampath Perera broke down the left and his low cross was met by Sarath, whose diving header flew into the far corner. Match over.

Sri Lanka were the champions and the happiest was Manilal and his ex-co. This tournament was held from March 25 to April 2, 1995.

It was a five nation tournament sponsored by Ceylon Tobacco through the company's Bristol brand and the co-sponsors were the Star TV of Hong Kong. During this tournament the cricket bats and the wickets were put away for a few days when Sri Lanka played host to the second SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional co-operation Gold Cup).

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