TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN - and his Golden Boot | Daily News

TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN - and his Golden Boot

Memories still linger although it was 45 years ago. The light was fading at Longden Place. Evening shadows were beginning to lengthen. Rugbyfans held their breath and hearts pounded. The conversion of a try stood between defeat or victory. And between the fate of those two emotions for the Police team stood TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN'S boot.

As the ‘Nizam of the Police Park’ took a deep breath, said a silent prayer and moved with calculated speed aiming his boot to take the 45 yard conversion at goal, time stood still and emotions froze. And then the golden boot with geometric precision made the ball sail over the uprights.

The Police Park fans were besides themselves. And the Police had done it again!

In my record book this scene was repeated in various scenarios not only at Police Park but at Havelock Park, at Longden place and even at Nittawela. These vignettes of TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN an outstanding sportsman and double international will remain legendary in Rugby's folk lore. Recall the Clifford Cup rugby finals between the Police and CH & FC at Longden Place in 1972 and the one against the Army in 1973 also at Longden Place.

Chock full of interest

The much looked forward to 1972 final was chock full of interest because Police had entered a cup final for the first time in their short rugby history. The final was spine chilling. With moments ticking for the kick off, every inch of spectator space at LP was bursting at the seams with the rugby crazy fair damsels in their best dressed adding colour and glamour already shouting themselves hoarse cheering mostly for the CH. Police was captained by Anton Benedict and Y.C. Chang at the helm of CH & FC. Other members of the Police team were Rock Banda, Morseth, Ibrahim Hamid, Savangham, Kularatne, Jayasundera, Linton, Sunil Perera, Nimal Abeysinghe, Somachandra, Bandula Wjesinghe and Samaraweera and the one and only TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN.

Respected referee Wright

The CH included Chang, Chikera, Hamdoon, Brian Baptist, Gunetilleke,Masilamani, Horace Perera, Upali Vidanage and Tony Amit. When that illustrious and respected referee MALCOM WRIGHT sounded the whistle for the kick off, the air was electric with both teams firing all cylinders to obtain the much needed first points for inspiration.

There was no quarter asked or given as both teams played their hearts out this being a prestigious final. CH had won a final before, but not the Police. It meant so much for the Cops to win and inscribe their names on the glittering trophy. The ‘DAILY MIRROR’ and the ‘TIMES OF CEYLON’ had given top prominence building up this final with a build up by rugby writers in M.B.Marjan, Austin Daniel and M.V. Muhsin giving their fair comments and cautious not to predict an outcome because both teams had classy players who could deliver.

Thundering applause

In the first few minutes Nimal Abeysinghe gave the Police the early 3 point lead with a long range penalty only to be equalized similarly by a Tony Amit penalty. There was no letting up with both teams going for the goal line.

There was that flamboyant CH fly half Lorensz Peireira who we featured in these columns, trying to breach the Police defence with his judicious punts ahead, grubbers and high ball, but found in full back HAJIREEN one who refused to be beaten and reliving pressure with booming kicks to touch with both feet using his soccer prowess to good effect.

Police in the lead

Soon after the break HAJIREEN converted a penalty from an oblique angle to give the Police the lead. But it was short lived as another Amit penalty tied the scores. With the light fading and two minutes to the final whistle, CH scrum half Upali Vidanage was spied off side.

Skipper Benedict opted for a kick at goal and handed over the ball to HAJIREEN. His heart and the hearts of his team mates and all present were missing more than a beat as he placed the ball and took a few steps backwards to give momentum to the kick which was going to be make or break for the Police.

Looked up for help

With pin drop silence HAJIREEN arrowed the ball right over the cross bar and then all hell broke loose as Police had triumphed rewriting the books. Then the following year there was a similar final that ended in a draw played out against the Army which saw a fitting result. HAJIREEN captained the Police team which team also included Nimal Lewke who was featured in these columns recently.

The IGP at that time was the sporting Stanley Senanayeke and Chairman of Rugby the famous Rudra Rajasingham a sportsman par excellence. As a reward the Police team was sent for the prestigious All India Rugby Tournament in Bombay in 1973 under the leadership of NIZAM HAJIREEN and the team won the 7s championships beating the strong Armenian team in the finals. It was another first for the Police.

National colours in rugby

HAJIREEN has the rare record of representing Police in five sports –cricket, rugby, football, hockey and athletics. He was the first Policeman to sport national colours in rugby and football, playing as a defender in both posts and defending his goal as his life depended on it. He was

dependable and a captain’s delight. Today the Police is sans sportsmen of HAJIREEN’S calibre. His rugby talent was discovered by DIG Ivor Van Twest and Superintendent of Police S.T. Thurairatnam. HAJIREEN would attribute his success in sport to the motto inculcated in him – service before self -at St.Michael’s by Jesuit Priests Fr.Weber, Fr.Gnanapragsam and master Ratnasabapathy. He commenced his sporting career at St.John’s Panadura and shifted schools because his father being a Sgt.Major in the Police had to honour routine transfers.

Ending at Hindu College

From Panadura to Trincomalee to St.Michael’s. He was also at Zahira College, Colombo for a brief period before ending up at Hindu College in Trincomalee in 1958.

HAJIREEN played in the First Asian Soccer Championships in 1959 in Malaysia. The captain was Rozen Rodrigo. Then in the championships in 1961 he was vice captain to M.A.Ameer of Zahira College. He also played against a team from Brazil in Athletic Madurera which had some players vying to play in the World Cup.

HAJIREEN came under excellent coaches in Albert Fernando, Neville Abeygunewardene and Fritsz Belger of East Germany. Sportsmen of the calibre of TUAN NIZAM HAJIREEN are so rare in these times. And justifiably he remains a Legend. HAJIREEN’S two sons NIRAZ and SHANAZ were competent cricketers and basketballers at D.S. Senanayake and Royal College. His wife Shirleen Nizarda now a retired teacher pioneered women’s Sepaktakraw in Sri Lanka having introduced the game to her school Sunethra Devi B.V. Pepikiyana in 1989.In appreciation of her services the ISTF appointed her to the women’s committee.

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