The Royal hockey family of Matale and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) | Sunday Observer

The Royal hockey family of Matale and Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

28 November, 2021
From left: The Wijekoon siblings Chandra, Sujatha, Manel, Ranjith and Herbert. Absent: Douglas
From left: The Wijekoon siblings Chandra, Sujatha, Manel, Ranjith and Herbert. Absent: Douglas

It is with nostalgia and deep appreciation that I venture to pen a few words on a great and wonderful couple, Angunawela David Wijekoon and his beloved wife Aluvihare Punchi Kumarihamy.

It was during the second Nationals held in Matale that Herbert Wijekoon invited me to meet his parents. With outstretched arms (David) welcomed me saying come ‘Putha’ come. This warm welcome greeted me over many decades whenever I went to Matale as a player, umpire or official. Theirs was an open home, the pot on the boil all the time. Nobody left without a meal.

A prominent planter he was, sipping a brandy and having a long chat. It was an experience itself. I looked forward to these visits as it gave me much joy. Here was a very simple and humane couple who sired six boys and two girls who as the saying goes, were born with hockey sticks in their hands.

For over two decades, six Wijekoons represented Ceylon and Sri Lanka in national and international matches both at home and abroad.

I have played with Herbert and Douglas at home and on tours abroad as well as with Ranjith at home. They were fearless forwards and never took a step back when facing the might of the awesome Punjab backs, when India was the top nation in the world, as well as the Pakistanis who were second best.

Richard the eldest captained Wijeya College and followed in his father’s footsteps as a young boy.

Ranjit was the only Sri Lankan to be selected for the Asian Games contingent in 1962 and 1966. Surely he must be the best ever player in the annals of Ceylon/Sri Lankan hockey. He was a dazzling right-inside and mesmerised his opponents with left stick work and body swerves.

All the Wijekoons captained their College teams, Richard at Wijeya College and the others at St. Thomas’ College, Matale, and the girls at Baptist Mission School.

This tribute brings back very fond memories of a very great ‘old couple’.

Herbert represented Ceylon on tours of Madras (1957), North India (1959) and against Pakistan (1955).

Douglas represented Ceylon against Madras HA (1958), North India (1959), India (1960), New Zealand (1960), Pakistan (1962) and at the Asian Games (Djakarta, Indonesia-1962).

Ranjith represented Ceylon against the Indian Wanderers (1961), Mysore HA (1963), Madras HA (1963), South and North India (1966), North India (1967), North and South India (1972), South and North India (1973), Madras HA (1973), Tamil Nadu (1974), Pakistan (1962), Asian Games (Djakarta 1962), Great Britain (1964), Indonesia (1965), Pre Olympics Qualifying international tournament (1966), Asian Games, Bangkok (1966), India (1967), Singapore (1968) and Asian Games (1970).

Chandra represented Ceylon against North India in 1967 while Shanthi played for Matale at the Nationals and in the A Division club tournament and Mackwood Industries in the Mercantile ‘A’ division tournaments.

Manel was a double International in hockey and netball while Sujatha also played international hockey.