Schoolboys made sandwich pawns in rugby show | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Schoolboys made sandwich pawns in rugby show

7 August, 2022
Vidyartha Number 8 Shirantha Dissanayake  attempts to break away from the Isipathana defence during play
Vidyartha Number 8 Shirantha Dissanayake attempts to break away from the Isipathana defence during play

In yet another bout of violence in an ever growing list of mayhem at schools rugby, Isipathana College’s players became the victims of after-match hooliganism when they were set upon and manhandled by a boisterous crowd at Nittawela last week at a game against Vidyartha College.

What has become more frightening is the fact that the so-called keepers of the cradle of rugby, the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association, has done absolutely nothing to deter or stamp out the menace other than say it is the responsibility of the host school to provide security cover and that action will be taken against offending schools.

Last week’s rowdy scenes marked the third time violence broke out in the 2022 season that has made schoolboys absolute pawns in the hands of egoistic school heads and their coaches, old boys wanting to settle old scores and players sacrificed on the altar of pride, even made to play by injecting pain killing drugs to fight off injury woes.

Another trend that has also raised eyebrows is the sight of mortal heads of Christian schools allowing schoolboy players to fall at their feet in a gesture of worship before and after a match.

The season was launched in absolute secrecy away from media questioning at a cost of Rs.80 million pumped in by commercial godfathers who cash in for marketing mileage in a school sporting showpiece that Sri Lanka Rugby, the parent body of the sport, once estimated to hold financial stakes in the region of Rs. 150 to 200 million.

Some of the affluent schools allocate budgets as high as Rs. 40 million or more for a season of which a coach is paid as much as Rs.700,000 for a month or more and most of them use the schoolboy platform to impress Sri Lanka Rugby officials for international recognition.

The Sunday Observer on numerous occasions highlighted the continuous trend of violence in schools rugby by documenting more than 15 cases over a five year period but the scourge rose to higher levels in the win-at-any-cost syndrome that has engulfed the passion of schoolboys.

Analysts charge that as long as schools are dragged in to play in a commercialized tournament, unchecked violence will very much be a part and parcel of the game quite in contrast to the period before the 1980s when schools rugby was savoured by both player and spectator at what was known as ‘traditional friendlies’.