School rugby turns players into pawns as violence continues | Sunday Observer

School rugby turns players into pawns as violence continues

21 July, 2019

Experts and purists alike will argue that boxing is a blood sport, although either fighter can throw in the towel or the bout can be stopped by the referee if the worst is feared.

But another sport called rugby, which is well governed by its global keepers World Rugby, has literally become a blood sport among schoolboys in Sri Lanka while its guardians and commercial godfathers continue to turn a blind eye perhaps hoping that there will never come a day when a life will be lost.

Warnings have already been issued to some school heads to turn away from sadistic tournaments and go back to playing their traditional “friendlies” that was the norm and matches were a family outing.

Last year the Sunday Observer exclusively reported how one of the most respected former Sri Lanka players, Hisham Abdeen, sacked his entire Academy team for an on-field brawl during their annual inter-academy tournament.

But Abdeen is not the keeper of schools rugby which has fallen into a state of mesmerizing anarchy where schoolboys can no longer enjoy their teenage passion other than become objects of sadistic exploitation by their institutions, well paid coaches and sponsors that seek to ride on their backs.

What is most alarming about the whole stinking episode is that the players can no longer shake hands or have a chat after a match unless done as a token at the behest of organisers after some previous incident that is soon to be forgotten until the next bout of violence happens.

The introduction of trophies, entry of commercial benefactors and the enlistment of professional coaches have undoubtedly altered the course of schools rugby that in turn has also created a new breed of spectators who pretend to be gentlemen taking their seats but in effect are street-fighters and thugs after a match.

The Sunday Observer and Ceylon Today newspapers have well documented over a dozen violent incidents that have taken place over the past five years with nothing done to create a safe climate for both player and spectator.

Last week’s player violence after a match between Isipathana and St. Peter’s College, where a young boy was also assaulted just a few feet away from a posse of policemen, only added to the dreaded listings.

The biggest fear is that as long as the passions of schoolboys are exploited by their own institutions, coaches and commercial backers, the culture of violence will continue in the Republic of Amnesia.

The bottom line is that schools rugby in Sri Lanka is not able to match the changes of the present era where the sport has become the biggest loser and its promoters the biggest winners. The demands placed on schoolboys is such that nothing short of a win will be accepted as the stakes keep rising year after year while trophies, egos and business interests are all that matters.

“Schools must be banned for violent acts committed by their players or supporters. If not then scrap the tournaments which is a lot better,” said a former player who quit the Sri Lanka Rugby administration over what he called was a “mess”.

Like the men running the sport at school, Sri Lanka Rugby has its own den to clean up while their game of musical chairs and politics take centre stage and the individual Big Shots call the shots from the outside while managing their private clubs with personal goals to fulfill.

Today no longer can gentlemen like in the past leave the venue of a school match discussing the game or taking back any memorable moments other than that of violence and abuse.

Three years ago the head of Trinity College, Andrew Fowler-Watt summed up the exploitation of schoolboys in a nutshell. “These are schoolboys who should be allowed to enjoy what they do,” he declared at the launch of his school’s centenary cricket match against St. Anthony’s College.

The tournament season ended yesterday, to start again in six months time when a new violent chapter may await as long as rugby means everything to some schools.