When one talks about sports consideration must be given to some of the most viewed sports. What must be grasped is that all sports are not viewed the same way. There was a time when sports like cricket, football, volleyball, netball, hockey, basketball, iron sport and rugby were popular. At present the most popular sport is cricket. As much as cricket is popular over here in the hills, rugby too is. Another game that caught up well was football. Kandy has made its contributions to the national sport which is volleyball. Netball is also a crowd-puller when the Kandy lasses play this game.
Hockey was played in Kandy in 1907 when the Rajput Regiment occupied the Kandy Military Barracks. At this ground the Indians were seen playing hockey. One of the first schools to take to hockey was St. Anthony’s College Katugastota. A few Antonians soon found places when there were vacancies in the side whenever military personnel did not turn up for their games. In 1911 when these soldiers left, the game gradually declined. And it was late P.T. Rajan, who came from India as a teacher, who revived this sport.
Basketball is another game played here. The first ever tournament was played here in 1965.
Weightlifting is one of the oldest sports in the country. At one time this sport was dominated by the sportsmen from Kandy. The hill capital produced several weight lifters who brought honour to their clubs, themselves and the country.
Today rugby is the most popular game in Kandy at club and school level. Kandy resembled a carnival when the city celebrated the 125th anniversary of Kandy Sports Club. The club celebrated the occasion with an international sevens tournament which was the brainchild of rugby promoter Malik Samarawickrema. This tournament was held as the Singer Sri Lankan Airlines Rugby 7’s. This tournament was held from 1999 to 2008.
However, there is also a not so rosy side to Kandy sports. The sportsmen and women from the hill capital are in need of sports facilities in general. What’s most lacking is a well-equipped playground. A facility of this nature will help take their talents and skills to a higher level. From the perspective of playgrounds, a big thank you should be said to Kandy Sports Club for having developed the Nitawella rugby ground.
Trinity College is fortunate to have an international cricket stadium which is known as the Asgiriya Stadium. This is where all the Kandy schools play their annual cricket big matches. Some of the schools that use this facility for cricket are St. Anthony’s, Sri Rahula and Dharmaraja.
Peradeniya Campus is fortunate to have separate playing areas for athletics, hockey, tennis, cricket, rugby and football. At one time the Peradeniya campus turf wicket was classified among the best in the country. This was the time when the late Leslie Hadunge was in charge of this facility. In the good old days, they helped all schools in a big way to play cricket and hockey. Today it is not so.
Police grounds is the venue which helped everyone in the field of cricket, football, hockey, athletics and volleyball. Now they don’t lease the grounds for hockey and football. Schools and clubs don’t play cricket as they have only a matting wicket and the facilities offered are not sufficient. This writer remembers the times when former DIG Bodhi Liyanage initiated a move to get the grounds re-developed through the Sports Ministry. At that time former Senior DIG Nimal Lewke was SP sports at Police.
The Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium is quite far from the Kandy city. Vidyartha College uses a ground which has been leased from the Municipal Council. They can only play junior games and conduct practices there. St. Sylvester’s has a miniature ground at Asgiriya where they can do a little bit of practices. Sri Sumangala has no grounds.
The sporting fraternity of Kandy hopes that the Ministers from Kandy will give a helping hand to improve facilities for sports in the hills.