Ranjith Wijekoon-the hockey legend | Daily News

Ranjith Wijekoon-the hockey legend

Ranjith Wijekoon, who celebrated his 80th birthday a few days back, was the cynosure of all eyes on the hockey field during his heyday. Hockey was one of the key sports which brought honour and fame to the country until the 1970’s.

The city of Matale was instrumental in unearthing some talented players who excelled at school, club and international level.

Ranjith started his primary education at Vijaya College, Matale. He joined St. Thomas College, Matale from grade three in 1952 until he left school in 1960. Hailing from a hockey playing family he was a hockey fanatic during his school days and opted to scoop the ball for his ‘Alma Mater’ from 1958 to 1960.

He led them from 1959 to 1960 and the school clinched several Championships under his leadership even though facilities were limited. While still a schoolboy he was chosen to represent the Matale District Hockey team in 1960. He went on to captain the team in 1968 and continued to play up to 1971. After a short break he once again played for the District from 1974 to 1979.

Employed by the State, he represented the State Services in many tournaments, and captained the team from 1971 to 1974, and helped them to win several Championships.

Due to his superb skills in the game, he was called for National duty and represented the country from 1960 to 1974, a marathon 14-year stint. During this period, he took part in three Asian Games (Jakarta, Indonesia 1962; and Bangkok, Thailand 1966 and 1970) and the Pre-Olympics tournament (Lahore 1968).

He captained the Sri Lanka hockey team in the ‘Corera Cup’ encounter against the Madras National team. He has an unbroken record of being the only Sri Lankan player to represent the Asian Hockey team in 1966 and 1970 which still remains unchallenged.

He would like to extend his sincere gratitude to his former coaches J. Singh of India and Mohamed Tasif of Pakistan who coached the National side during that era.

He was a great follower of former Indian National right inside T.V. Peter, who was his role model , who also taught Ranjith the finer points of the game.

His wife Pushpa, also a former National player, represented the Sri Lanka team from 1967 to 1969. His two daughters Niluka and Nadeera were both former National players. Niluka captained Kandy District combined schools’ hockey team in 1991 and was later selected to the National under-21 women’s team in 1992.

She represented the country at the First Asia Cup held in Malaysia. She was appointed as the Manageress of the Sri Lanka under-21 girls’ team for the Asian Hockey Federation Cup tournament held in Singapore in 2019.

Nadeera played hockey for the Sri Lanka schools team in 1992 and was the vice-captain. She also captained the Kandy District under-19 girls’ combined schools’ hockey team.

His two elder brothers Herbert (1957), Douglas (1958) and younger brother Chandra (1965) all played for Sri Lanka until 1967.

His younger sister Manel Wijekoon (who was married to late General Wijaya Wimalaratne) is a double International who played Hockey and Netball for Sri Lanka. Sujatha Wijekoon played hockey for the national team. He is also the Patron of the Sri Lanka Masters VIP Hockey Association which includes ten past National Captains.