Fazil Marija with his mother

Fazil Marija who will step down from his position as Sri Lanka Rugby Sevens captain at the end of the third and final leg of the ARFU Dialog rugby Sevens tournament on Sunday said that it has been a great honour and privilege to lead his country for the past three years.

“The decision was not a sudden one; I had taken it a long time back to retire from the captaincy, since I wanted to make way for the next generation of players to lead our team,” the 29-year-old Marija told The Nation.

”I will still play as a player in the team and will give my maximum knowledge, experience and support to the next appointed captain. The upcoming ARFU Dialog rugby sevens tournament at the Racecourse grounds on October 10 and 11 will be my last tournament as Sri Lanka captain.

“I would like to say that I have held this position for three years with great pride being able to lead and represent my country internationally. I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported me during my term as captain and I wish all the very best to the next person in line.”

Marija had a special word of thanks for his mother whom he said looked after him well in all aspects of his life as well as providing all the necessities and encouragement for him to be where he is today. “I also want to thank my under-13 and 15 coach Ananda “Kastro“ Kasthuriarachchi, 1st XV coaches Ronnie Ibrahim and Gunadasa, the Kandy Sports Club and Malik Samarawickrama.”

Marija who hails from the hill capital Kandy is one of Sri Lanka’s finest rugby union players to represent the country and one of Asia’s best fly halves in both seven’s and XV a-side rugby. He is the current captain of the Sri Lanka National rugby XV side.

Marija comes from a sporting family background, with at least 17 members who are related to his family through two generations having represented various clubs such as Armed Forces, Police and the National Rugby teams during the past four decades.

Marija mastered his rugby skills at Kingswood College, Kandy under the coaching of old boy Ananda “Kastro“Kasthuriarachchi. Kingswood is the first school to introduce schoolboy rugby in Sri Lanka way back in the 1890s. Marija represented his College teams from under-13 to Under-20. He played for the College 1st XV in 2003 as a fly half and went on to lead them to an unbeaten triple championship in 2004. As captain of Kingswood College 1st XV he became the best Schoolboy rugby player in the Singer International rugby 7’s tournament and also the Golden Key Schools rugby 7’s tournament enabling Kingswood College to win both Championships under his captaincy.

He first represented Sri Lanka at the age of 16 in the Junior Rugby Asiad held in Colombo in 2000. While at school, in 2003 he was called up by SLRFU to be in the starting lineup for the match against the touring Hong Kong team at Nittawela grounds in Kandy.

In 2004, Marija commenced his club rugby career by representing the Kandy SC in their second round match against Havelocks SC at Nittawela. He also went on to represent Kandy SC in the Clifford Cup Knock-out tournament the same year. Todate he continues to represent Kandy SC and during this period the club went on to dominate Sri Lanka rugby by winning the League and Knock-out tournaments continuously. He was adjudged the Most Promising Player of the Year 2004’ at the Caltex/Observer Rugby Awards. All this he achieved while he was still a schoolboy at Kingswood College. Marija went on to captain Kandy SC in the 2010 rugby season and took them to win the triple championships.

Internationally, he has represented Sri Lanka in numerous international tournaments, both in 7-a-side and 15-a-side. This exceeds 50 International 15-a-side matches and more than a century of 7-a-side matches. At present he is the most capped Sri Lankan rugby player.

Marija led Sri Lankan Tuskers to several International 7’s tournaments (2008, 2012 and 2013) and also served as vice-captain of the Sri Lanka National Rugby teams (2011 and 2013). In 2010, he was invited to represent Asia Pacific Barbarians in Hong Kong and played alongside George Gregan, Justin Marshal, Christian Cullen, Hale Tipo and coach David Campese.

Marija also underwent a three month training stint in 2013 at one of the elite Training Academies in New Zealand – the Rugby Performance Centre in Auckland, home for the Auckland Blues. He trained along with Northland ITM Cup Development Squad.

Under Marija’s leadership Sri Lanka ended as the third best team in Asia in the 7’s circuit in 2013 and won the Shield at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Rugby 7’s at Glasgow, Scotland.

He won numerous National Awards for his excellence in the field of rugby. In 2007 and 2009 he became the Most Outstanding Player of the Year (Caltex Rugby Awards, Sri Lanka). He was also recognised as the ‘Best Three Quarter’ in 2011 and became the ‘Best Ruggerite of the Year’. In 2012 he became the ‘Best Fly Half of the Year’.

In 2015 Marija was reappointed as the Sri Lankan XV side captain where for the first time in the country’s rugby history, he led the team to victory in the Asian Rugby five nations Championship in Philippines.