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"Gampaha Sira" was best dasher in Asia

About five to six decades ago, volleyball was the "king of sport" in Ceylon. Gampaha was the epic centre of volleyball. The game took deeply rooted in Kelani Valley area, Tudella, Minuwangoda, Trincomalee, Hanwella, Pothupitiya. The game became much popular, with the Central Volleyball Club of Gampaha which was led by Charles, who was considered as the "Father of modern volleyball in Sri Lanka." J.P. Suriyapperuma, R.A. Abeyratne, "Setter" H.C. Alfred were the other stalwarts, who formed the Central Volleyball Club of Gampaha.


W.L. Siriwardane

The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, supported the cause of volleyball in a big way at that time. They leagued the inter-club and District Tournament. These tournaments were conducted for the prestigious Dinamina Shield. The game became popular in no time. The then Volleyball Association, who possessed dynamic, devoted members like Arumugam, Premadasa (Police), Charles and other officers in the district devoted their time and worked tirelessly to improve the game.

It was the best times for volleyball. One who occupied the centre stage in late 1950's and 1960's was W.L. Siriwardane - Weliweriya Liyanage Siriwardane. This dynamic player was the "Best Dasher", I have seen in my life.

Bawa floored

The venue was the Government Services grounds, Parsons Road, now called Chittampalam Gardiner Mawatha, adjoining the present People's Bank Headquarters and on the approach road to the Colombo Rowing Club. It was the Indo-Ceylon first ever volleyball test. The entire ground and the adjoining area were full to the capacity. The chief guest was Ananda and university cricketer, sports loving leader of the Opposition and Samasamaja Party Leader Dr. N.M. Perera. The Indo-Sri Lanka test began on 13th October 1959. The favourites - India, were given a close run by the Ceylon team led by Siriwardane. To assist him, was the "passer" his own brother, W.L. Piyaratne. Left hand service of Cyril Jayasinghe was also outstanding. There were easily more than 2,500 spectators cheering for Ceylon around the ground.

Gahanna Aiya Pelenna

The first set was won by India easily. Siriwardane and his team fought hard. The Indian skipper was giant sized six foot nine inches Bawa. He was covering the net. The time was 5.31 pm. Cheering filled the air. There were shouts of "Hammer Sira - Hammer Sira," every where. In the second set, India were leading 11-9 with the help of Jayasinghe, the tall lanky Piyaratne, positioned on the air for Siriwardane, shouting "Gahanna Aiya Pelenna." Sira, went high up like a rocket. He positioned himself perfectly. With all his might, Siriwardane leapt high up, within a giffy, hammered a very vicious powerful "Dash". The Indian giant could not cover it. Bawa was taken a surprise. The Dash was venomous, powerful. He did not have a ghost of a chance and it hit full-blooded on his face.

The blood flushing out from his nose and mouth. Bawa fell unconscious like a giant tree. It was like a knock-out punch from Mohammed Ali. Blood was flowing non-stop. Immediately, Indian skipper was carried to a van. He was immediately rushed to hospital for medical treatment.

Who's who of Sira

Siriwardane, hails from Gampaha District. He was born on June 1938 at Ihalagama, Gampaha W.P. His father was W.L. Carolis Perera and mother K.A. Karalina. They possessed three children. They are Ariyawathie Perera, Siriwardane, and W.L. Piyaratne. Both Siriwardane and Piyaratne captained Ceylon in volleyball, which was unique a record, difficult to break. Siriwardane, attended Bandarawatta Junior School and Bandarawatta Maha Vidyalaya. At school he learned the basics of volleyball from K.A. Rajapaksa. Under the captaincy of Siriwardane, Bandarawatta MV annexed the schools volleyball title. While playing for school, W.L. played for a club named Nandana Volleyball Club, Ihalagama. One day S.H. Jayatileka, an Ayurvedic Physician a keen VB enthusiast introduced Siriwardane to Charles of Gampaha. He was not only a "Guru" to Siriwardane, but for many players from Gampaha.

In 1954, Siriwardane won his Ceylon colours. In his first match, he played with outstanding players like L.A.D. Premaratne (John Bosco), Batho Dematagoda, Joe Rupasinghe (Kelani Valley), W. Wijesuriya (Sinhala SC-Trincomalee), Camillus Antony (Tudella), Jayasekera (Lucky Six - Pothupitiya), Lennie Jayakody, R. Ratnapala, Gamini Samarasinghe (Minuwangoda Central). In the South East Asian Volleyball Championships held in Karachchi, Pakistan in 1959, Siriwardane won the Best Player's Award and the President Ayub Khan Gold Medal for the Best Dasher. After returning from the game, gentleman Siriwardane served as a volleyball administrator and a referee. Sira and Gampaha are inseparable.

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