Sri Lankan football and its origin | Daily News

Sri Lankan football and its origin

The first ever attempt in the formation of Controlling Bodies to organize and conduct Association Football in Ceylon was when the Colombo Association Football League was formed at a meeting held in the Bristol Hotel, in Colombo. That was on April on April 4,1911.

H. French was elected President and H.K. Crosskey Secretary. However, as a result of World War I in 1914, this body understandably became inactive and ineffective. After a lapse of nine years, the Colombo Association Football League was revived and re-constituted in 1920 under the amended name, Colombo Football League, with Herbert Dowbiggin as President and H. French as Chairman.

The Colombo League, by now was gaining ground with more new clubs seeking affiliation. In 1924 Sir John Tarbat, that famous sportsman of that era, became the President and as a football lover he contributed immensely in the promotion of the game in the years that followed.

In 1918, the Colombo Mercantile Association Football League was formed and in 1920 the Government Services Football Association came into being as the parent body. In the State Sector, had adopted football as the main sport.

The City Football League was inaugurated in 1922, which primarily catered for the bare-footballers. The City Football League received a pavilion named Sir Edwin Hayward Memorial pavilion in 1929, which, was their till mid 2000. This modest ground and pavilion was exclusively meant for football. Few years back it was Manilal Fernando who re-developed the ground and put up a new pavilion.

When tournaments were required, Sir Henry de Mel, the well known philanthropist, pioneered de Mel Shield Football in 1922. The Colombo Referees Association was inaugurated in 1929, and stood as the main body representing the "All Blacks: of football. Sir John Tarbat was its first president and T. Kandiah, the secretary. Interestingly, the Colombo Referees' Association is a vibrant body and served the sport in its long and distinguished history.

The need for a National Controlling Body for football in Ceylon was clearly apparent. The game blossomed by the late 1920's and a few Football Leagues had sprung up both in Colombo and in the outstations.

So, at a well attended meeting of football enthusiasts, held on August 29, 1929 at the Grand Oriental Hotel, then known popularly as the GOH, national steering committee headed by Sir John Tarbat as Chairman and R.H. Marks as Secretary, was formed to pursue this matter.

For more than one reason, the formation of a National Body drifted away into oblivion, though the sport was daily gathering momentum as lively and competitive recreation. However, following a meeting held on March 17 1939, a special General Meeting was convened on April 3, 1939 among representatives of Football Clubs, Service Units, the planting community, the public service and the Mercantile sector, at which the first National Body for Football was formed under the name, the Ceylon Football Association. This epoch making meeting was held at the Galle Face Hotel and the following office bearers were elected.

Patron Sir John Tarbat, President C.W. Mackkie jnr., Vice Presidents J.C. Robinson, J. Forbes, S.C. Trail, R. Brough and Lt. Col. Stanley Fernando, Secretary R. Mackie, Treasurer Donovan Andree. By that time the II World War was in full cry, and though uninvolved directly, Ceylon was adopting precautionary measures in almost every field of activity. Naturally, the activities of the newly formed Ceylon Football Association had to be curbed and limited.

With the II world war over and the debris cleared, The Ceylon Football Association was back on its feet by 1946 with Capt. W.T. Brindley as President. A.A.Perera as secretary and Cecil Bocks as Treasurer, In 1948 , Dr. A.R.M. Waffarn, a knowledgeable and keen follower of the British football, took over as Secretary of the Ceylon Football Association, and was followed by A.W. Musaffer who re-shaped the destines of local football with his sharp sure and sensible approach to the sport.

The distinguished personalities who adorned the office of President in the Ceylon Football association or the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, which replaced the former and stands unchanged since them. C.W. Mackie Jnr., Capt. W.T. Brindley, G.L. Yule, Cmdr. G.R.M de Mel, E.A. Badman, Sir Allan Rose, Minister V.A. Sugathadasa, Dr. N.D. Wijesekara, M.D.Kitrchilan, B.F.S. David, I.D.MN. Van Twest, H.W.H. Weerasinghe, Minister Weerasinghe Malllimarahchi, Vernon Manilal Fernando, J.N.S.Anandaraja, Bodi Liyanage, Gamini Randeni., Thilina Panditharathne, Hurlye Silvera. The names of the secretaries who chipped in to make football the number one sport in our land, is worthy of mention J.C. Bocks, A.A.Perera, Dr. A.R.M. Waffarn. A.W. Musafer, P .M.S. Wijesundaram, V.K. Arumugam. R. Jeevaratnam, J.J. Sarangapnay, M.H. Yusuf, Lt. Col. C.S. Fernando, Trevo Reckman, Comd. Tilak Pinnawella, Brig. Ananda Weerasekara, Chriysnatha Perera, G.A.K.Abeyaskekara, Sunil Senaweera, T.M. Sally, H. Marikar. It was their flair, enthusiasm and drive that made football a house hold name in the country, particularly between the 1940's to 2010.

Some of the earliest clubs in Colombo were St. Michael's S.C. Havelock Football Club, Java Lane S.C., Wekande SC, Moors Football ?Club, and the CH & FC. The last being exclusively an European monopoly.

Harlequins Football Club and Saunders SC soon joined the limited group and reigned supreme for many years. The principal tournaments were the de Me Shield and the Times Cup, which attracted extensive interest from the public.

Colombo Football down the years conducted two major tournaments. The Gold Cup and the Silver Cup, where milling crowds gathered at the respective venues they were held. The Gold Cup tournament attracted the elite clubs in Colombo, while the Silver Cup was confined to Division II teams, from which emerged promising footballers who played in the premier division, in later years.

The Colombo Football League also conducts the sevens, one of the most entertaining tournaments, then, and the Division 1 and Division II League championships.

The above named championships promoted the game throughout Colombo and summoned much spectator interest. There are abundant promising footballers in Colombo. The Federation must send its talent scouts all over the land to spot this latent talent.

They must also propagate and promote football at grass-roots level and this could be done to build-up the nurseries. Today Colombo League has a energetic President in Hurley Silver a Benedictine - who was a top footballer and later played for Ratnam SC. Today he runs Ratnam S.C. The Secretary is Balendera "Bala" Anthony. He is a Josephian. He represented St. Joseph's College, 1972 to 1978, leading the side in 1975. In 1976 he was adjudged the 'Sportsman of the Year, and received the 'Josephian Blue".