UK - here we come:
Bens FUTSAL champs
‘No Bens, no soccer’ is the motto of the most successful schoolboy’s
football team in our country - St Benedict’s College, Kotahena. The team
of 16+ to 18 year olds that recently won the coveted prize of a tour to
the UK, at the British Council organized indoor football tournament is
eager to speak in English, enthusiastic about life and their whole world
revolves around football.
Goalkeeper Rumesh Shalinda in action. Pictures by Angu Rajendran
“We were very confident about winning” said goalkeeper Rumesh
Shalinda. “Though we had to qualify in a UK quiz for the tournament we
knew we could do it”, said captain Susitha with his delightful smile.
“We researched on the web sites recommended by the British Council,
both individually and as a team. We were well prepared for both the quiz
and the football”
All expense paid
The British Council, Sri Lanka organized a unique FUTSAL tournament
where 8 out of 18 teams that took part in the quiz would play in an
indoor football tournament.
The prize - an all expense paid trip to the UK. The winning team is
of course - St. Benedict’s College.
The eight teams that qualified from the quiz were - Colombo
International School, Asian International school, Elizabeth Moir, St
Thomas’, Nalanda, Wycherely International, Gateway College and St
Benedict’s. The Benedict’s boys made it at the end of three tie breaker
The indoor matches were played at the Austasia indoor football
stadium. “This was the first time that the Bens were playing indoors”
said coach Hilarian Donald Fernando. Though St Benedicts are the
national schoolboys football champions and the All Island Schools
Football Federation tournament champions since 2004, they found indoor
football very racy.
Was the FUTSAL tournament a cakewalk or were there any tough matches?
“The match against Asian International School (AIS) was very very
hard.” they all jumped up to say. “AIS scored the first goal. This has
never happened to us before.” Captain Susitha said. “It took a long time
for the team to settle down.” said Coach Fernando. Soon after, St.
Benedict’s forwards Asela and Nishankara scored four quick goals. After
half-time, AIS tied with another three goals. Unbelievable! Unheard of!
No team ties with Bens for football.
Goal-keeper Rumesh who has been awarded ‘Best Goalkeeper’ in almost
every tournament he has played said “I could not stop the goals because
I was afraid to dive- afraid to fall. The ground was very hard.” But in
the end it was the goal-keeper won the tournament for the Ben’s. When
the score was tied at four-all at the end of the game, there were
penalty shoot-outs to decide the winner. Once again, four players on
each side scored. Penalties were also tied.
When the AIS goal-keeper came on to take his penalty shot, Rumesh
(Ben’s goalie) realized ‘the AIS goalie has only practiced being a
goalie. He has never taken a shot in his life. He is nervous. I am going
to block his shot’ he determined. And he did. When it was his turn to
score, he shot easily. He is one of the better forwards on the team.
“Sometimes the goal-keeper also plays as forward” says coach Hilarian
“I was very confident that we would win even when the scores were
tied at 4-all at the end of the match” said captain Susitha. “After all
we always play with one extra player on our side. God is always on our
“A unique habit about the team”, said Master in Charge - Leonard
Happuarachchi “is that they always pray before a match and they always
go to church and thank God after a tournament.” After the tournament at
Austasia, when the victorious team returned to school, there were no
bailas in the bus ride back. The team, believe it or not- sang hymns in
praise of God.”
“Brother Granville has taken Bens football to unbelievable heights”
said the master-in-charge and the coach. Brother Granville is the
Director of St Benedicts College. He is present for every practice
session on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for about 3 hours from 4pm at
the College grounds opposite the Sugathadasa stadium.
Bens team - (Front row from left) Asela Tharanga, Rumesh
Shalinda, Thilina Rangika. (Back row from left) - Harshana
Dilshan, Buddhika Sandaruwan, Nishankara Madusanka, Susitha
Priyankara, Pasindu Tharaka.
He inculcates a love for the Alma Mater in the boys all the time. He
makes the boys help out with the school library whenever they have free
time in school. Now since they are going to the UK for a tour he is
helping them to improve their English. “In the school we always speak to
the boys in English. I am very happy they are getting this opportunity
to go to the UK”, said Brother Granville. The school rule is - one
player, one sport. “So we don’t even think about any other games,” said
forward Asela. “We have to play one sport really well and use the rest
of the time to study,” said Susitha who is an Advanced level Bio-Science
student and also a school prefect.
With our families
“We spend all our free time at home either studying or with our
families. We love to watch Manchester United matches on TV,” said all
members of the team. All except one are Manchester United Club fans
including the coach.
“I train them with the same strategies as the Man U team” said the
coach. This team plays with a special skill - One touch pass or two
They realize that the ball can travel faster than a player, so
passing the ball as soon as they receive it will speed up the game and
the other team will be left wondering what went past them. “They have
great team spirit and play a very unselfish game,” said coach Hilarian
Fernando. It is no wonder the boys perform year after year.
The school supports them as do their parents and the Alumni. The
British Council has offered a tour of the UK for only 5 members of the
team but the team spirit and love for each other is so great that the
team has decided that they will get sponsorship from the Old Bens for
the three reserves as well.
This team feels that football will develop them as better persons
because they have learnt to think quickly, accept any defeat as a
stepping stone to success (though their defeats are far between, having
lost only one tournament in three years). “Most of all, God is always on
our side,” said the team. Here is a group of youngsters who will never
go astray for their love of football.