Kandy football seeks revival to bring back past glory | Daily News

Kandy football seeks revival to bring back past glory

When will Kandy football come back to its former position? The history of the Kandy Football dates back to the 1920’s. Everyone has to put the good football of Kandy at the forefront and take the best decisions to develop Kandy club football. Kandy was once a powerhouse of Sri Lanka club football. But today it is in a forgotten state. When will the game of football that one time held its own and produced footballers of international class regain its former glory in the historic city of Kandy?

Today no one seems to care for football in the hill capital which has a history of nearly 102 years. The game is sadly neglected. For many years, tournaments and AGM’s were not being held on time in an organized manner. This has been a great setback for the sport. It is reliably understood no tournaments are being held.

The FFSL is not showing any interest in Kandy football. It is time they woke from their deep slumber and started to move the game of football in Kandy towards the right direction which has today received step motherly treatment. Kandy Football League is a founder member of the controlling body. At one time this league conducted over 150 matches a year, today not even conducted ten matches, the decline started from 2010, due to the fault of the controlling body.

Football was introduced to Kandy in the mid 1920’s. During the Second World War, British units were stationed in Kandy, with the one time Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the South East Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten having his headquarters in the hill capital.

Later on Kandy Amateur Football League was formed. It subsequently changed its name to Kandy District Football Association. It served football in Matale, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Kurunegala and Kegalle, as the years passed by these towns formed their own associations. Today they can survive on their own. When Football in Colombo and elsewhere received a setback as far as Ceylonese exponents of the game were concerned, the game was more or less confined to the permanent population as well as to the Services. Early in 1942, however, there appeared to be a lack of interest in the game, and the efforts made by S.C.Traill the then secretary to call a meeting of the League having failed he was compelled to return the trophies to the donors.

At that time the game seemed to be seriously affected. But fortunately G.H. Robins, T.P.C. Roberts who were then stationed in Kandy and M.S. Jainudeen were mainly responsible in resuscitating the game. A tournament for the main shield was inaugurated with the participation of the Services Footballers in Kandy and football began to thrive again. At that time Bogambara was the location of high activity. At one time Kandy had one of the biggest leagues with over 40 teams.

Today football is not much heard of in Kandy, instead rugby is more popular both at club and school level. Football has apparently hit rock bottom. Kandy won the All Island Senior and junior League championship for the first time under the presidency of B.M. Liyanage and Hafiz Marikar in 1990’s. With this win Kandy was offered a tour to Nepal to play in a tournament, for which teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal took part and Kandy was placed second. It was the first ever Kandy team to tour overseas. Today in FFSL competitions no team from Kandy participates. Holding position in office for prestige sake is not what is required today. Officials must come forward and serve the game of football to prosper. Surely the FFSL could have sent out their officials and looked into the shortcomings and the need of these leagues and helped them out.

Talking of Kandy football one should recall the era when DIG Bodhi Liyanage was president of Kandy Football and Hafiz Marikar as secretary. Together in Kandy they formed a formidable pair and worked tirelessly for the benefit of the players, the clubs and the game.

The duo left no stone un-turned to see that Kandy FL was one of the best leagues in the country and the envy of other leagues. They provided all incentives to all players and the players obliged and had the greatest respect and regard for them. Bodi Liyanage must be turning in his grave considering the low levels that Kandy’s football and administration has fallen into.

If football in Kandy is to improve the controlling body must put the leagues on the correct path. It was a product of Kandy Tom Ossen an old boy of Dharmaraja College, who led the Sri Lanka football team then known as Ceylon in the first ever tour of the Far East in 1958. During that period, Tom Ossen was attached to the Kandy Municipal Council as a playground Instructor and represented Young Stars Sports Club and Kandy. Later he was the coach of the Peradeniya University team, Kandy Association Football League and a top grade FIFA referee.

Several top British footballers displayed their versatility, representing the Kingstown and Queenstown regiments, the Royal artillery, and also the West African Rifles, which also had quite a few Negro stars in their ranks. Football was the main sport at that time in the hills. Some of the clubs which took to the sport in the 1930s were Old Antonians SC, Old Kingswoodians SC, Police SC, Kandy YMCA, Greenfield SC, Kandy Sports Club, Phoenix SC, St. Michael’s SC, Gampola Chums, Rovers SC, Kandy YMMA and Red Stars SC. The late doyen of sports M.S. Jainudeen, the man behind the scene, formed the Kandy Amateur Football League (KAFL) with the support from the foreign military men and some other keen supports of the sport in Kandy, mainly in the early 1940s. The KAFL subsequently changed its name to Kandy District Football League (KDFL).

Then came the Kandy Football Referees’ Association, in the late 1940s, with pioneers like Philip Buultjens, Kingsley Abeyasinghe, R. Jaymon, S.A.C. ‘Gunner’ Mohideen as active referees. Later A.J.M. Yusuf, M.E. Marikar, and Tom Ossen handled the whistle.

During that time, Col. V.H.L. Anthonis, A.C.L. Ratwatte, and E.L. Senanayake gave Kandy football a big hand with M.S. Jainudeen as the KFRA Secretary. In mid 1970s Dr. C.D.L. Fernando took over the Presidency and held the position till his death, in the mid eighties. Talking about some of the top players Kandy had produced, the first coming to mind is none other than Sylvestrian Mahinda Aluwihare, who was rated as the best mid-field player in Asia. Aluwihare led the country on several occasions.

The first product from Kandy to lead the country was Tom Ossen when he was in the Kandy Municipal Council. While Ossen had the longest and most colourful international career (1947-1965), Mahinda was a picture of sheer brilliance in the pivotal position, which helped Sri Lanka to many an international victory.


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