"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.
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.
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
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.