Iswan Omar - a ‘giant amongst men’ in rugby administration | Daily News

Iswan Omar - a ‘giant amongst men’ in rugby administration

Iswan Omar
Iswan Omar

The Janaza burial of the legendary ruggerite Iswan Omar took place in Kandy at the Katukelle Jumma Mosque Burial Grounds on Saturday.

Omar passed away on Friday at the Peradeniya Hospital at the age of 71 years.

He left his wife Sithy and son, Harris.

Omar served the rugby community as a player, coach, referee, and administrator on many levels and he was a former player, coach, referee and administrator, and was actively involved in the game.

He was a former Secretary and Vice-President and Administrative Manager of Kandy SC and was behind the success of Kandy SC’s international sevens tournament and was also the President of the Central Province Rugby Football Union (CPRFU).

He played a massive role in Kandy SC rugby. He was forward in his playing days and while he may not have been the biggest player on the field he was a giant amongst men on the field of rugby administration.

He was also Secretary of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR). He was respected around the country in the field of rugby.

Omar started his rugby at Trinity College under the guidance of Hilary Abeyaratne and first played for the Under-15 side as a prop forward and as a second-row forward for the Under-17.

He then played from 1967 to 1969 for the senior team. For the senior side, he started as a ‘prop’ and later played as a third-row forward.

Some of his teammates were Ajith Abeyratne, Shafie Jainudeen, J. K. Furlong, Irwin Howie, Tikiri Marambe, Ajith Kobbekkduwa, Gamini Udugama, Mohan Balasuriya, Alex Lazarus, Jadi Dissanayake, S. B. Madawela, Mohan Samarakoon, Y. S. Ping, Palitha Samarasekara, B. Shanhikumar, N. T. B. Dissanayake, Stephen Paul, Anil Siriwardena, Mahendra Talwatte, Ranjan Nadarajah, Rafi Ismail, Mark Sunderalingam, Prince Nayagam, Dudley Dissanayake, M. Affif and Georgi Tillakaratne. Omar was awarded colours in 1967 and the ‘Lion’ in 1969 when he was the Vice-Captain. As a schoolboy in 1969, he was invited to play for Kandy SC along with Jainudeen and Fredrick Prince in the Clifford Cup Knock-Out that year.

He also played for the Combined Schools Team. Then he crossed over to Kandy Lake Club and later played for Kandy Rugby Football Club and led Kandy RFC.

In 1973, when Kandy SC and Kandy RFC amalgamated, he rejoined Kandy SC and led the side in 1975.

He was a fine player and a good leader. That year Kandy SC lost in the Clifford Cup semi-finals to Air Force SC in extra time.

From Kandy SC, he took up planting and joined Uva Gymkhana Club, Dimbulla ACC, Kelani Valley, and Dickoya MCC and also played for the Up-country.

After chucking up planting, he returned to Kandy SC again and became a Committee Member, Secretary and one time was Administrative Manager and was the Chief Organiser of the Singer-SriLankan Airlines International Rugby Sevens for 10 years. He coached St. Anthony’s College, Kandy SC, and Kandy Women’s Team. His coaching style was said to involve quiet words with players and suggestions rather than orders. He was a strong believer in attacking rugby, with the attitude that if a team had possession of the ball it should be able to attack, regardless of the position on the field.

He also handled the whistle. His son Harris played for Trinity first as a scrum half in the Under-17 side and while playing for the Under-17, he was invited to play for the senior team as a third-row forward and ended up as number eight and led the side in his last year winning the Bradby Shield.

He led the Sri Lanka Under-19 Team and later the Sri Lanka Under-21 Team. While at school, he played for Kandy SC and was one of the finest third-row forwards. He led Kandy SC in 1999 and under his leadership they won the Inter-Club Sevens for the first time beating CR and FC 12-5 in the final. Harris also led the Sri Lanka Team at the Rugby Asiad and served in the Executive Committee of SLR.