Fazil Marija, one of Sri Lanka’s finest rugby payers who took on Asia’s best, will call it quits at the end of the current Asian championships now taking place in Malaysia.
Marija has been serving both Sri Lanka and Kandy Sports Club with distinction for many years and hails from a sporting family where 17 members from two generations had played for clubs and national teams during the past 40 or more years.
Marija, a fleet-footed fly-half, mastered the skills of the game at Kingswood College whose team he represented from the Under-13 age group and never looked back until he led his school’s senior side to become triple champs in 2004.
Even at the age of 15 he was no stranger to the Sri Lanka team which he represented in 2000 during an Under-16 tour for the Junior Rugby Asiad.
The selectors were quick to spot his flawless talents and in 2003 while still a schoolboy he was drafted to the Sri Lanka team’s starting line-up against a touring Hong Kong team for a match at Nittawela.
But Marija’s major turn in rugby came in 2004 when he enrolled at Kandy Sports Club for their second round League match against Havelocks at Nittawela.
In that same year Marija played for Kandy in the Clifford Cup tournament and six years later in 2010 he was leading his team to the League title and the Knock-Out championship in 2015.
Marija said he was banking on one final fling at the upcoming 2017 domestic inter club season.
Marija has won numerous awards for his excellence on the field as he bagged the prize for the Most Outstanding Player in 2007 and the Best Three-Quarter Player in 2009.
He went further and in 2011 he picked up an award for the Best Ruggerite of the Year and in the following year he was adjudged the Best Fly Half of the Year.
The Sri Lanka 25-member squad with Marija and led by Roshan Weeraratne left the island on Friday to contest the 2017 Asian Championship Division One tournament which will take place in Ipoh, Malaysia.
The 2017 Asian Rugby Championship tournament refers to the divisions played within the annual international rugby union tournament for the Asian region.
The competition was formed as the Asian Rugby Football Tournament in 1969. The Asian Rugby Championship has replaced the Asian Five Nations tournament in 2015.
Sri Lanka is grouped along with Malaysia, Philippines and United Arab Emirates. This edition of the tournament is part of a qualification round for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Division Two teams are Singapore, Chinese Taipei, India and Thailand and will be held at the Taipei Municipal Stadium in November.
The Division Three tournament was held in March in Uzbekistan in which Lebanon was placed first while Uzbekistan and Iran took the second and third places respectively.
The Division One matches will kick off from May 14 with Sri Lanka taking on the Philippines and Malaysia confronting the United Arab Emirates.
The Sri Lanka tour party is made up of Roshan Weeraratne (captain), Fazil Marija, Danushka Ranjan, Lavanga Perera, Richard Dharmapala, Jason Dissanayake, Thilina Wijesinghe, Ganuka Dissanayake, Soyuru Anthony ( all from Kandy SC), Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Sharo Fernando, Prasath Madusanka, Umesh Madhushan, Ashan Darling, Nishon Perera, Niroshan Fernando (all from Havelock SC), Sajith Saranga, Sathya Ranatunga, Chanaka Chandimal, Lee Keegel and Richie Dharmapala (all from Navy SC), Omalka Gunaratne, Tariq Salih (all from CR), Asoka Jayalal (Army SC), Joel Perera (Police SC), Fereti Verebula (coach), Imthie Marikar (High Performance Director), Nick Golbe (trainer) and Rohan Chinthaka (manager).
Asia’s top referees have been appointed for the six matches. The Performance reviewers for all matches are Alan Whitcombe (Asia Rugby) and Andrew Tranent (Hong Kong).