Lone wolf joins violent pack hijacking schools rugby | Sunday Observer

Lone wolf joins violent pack hijacking schools rugby

16 July, 2023
A bear hug by rival players is what decent spectators wish to see after a game as displayed by St. Joseph’s College play-maker Navin Marasinghe with a Kingswood College aopponent-Nilfer Ibrahim wheelchair bound in hospital

With nearly a decade of highlighting the dangers to players, match officials and spectators, puppets and puppeteers continue to run one of schoolboys’ greatest passions:

The first spark at what can be feared during the 2023 inter school rugby season chillingly flashed across Kandy as the coach of St. Joseph’s College was brutalised after a match against Kingswood College last Sunday.

An eye witness told the Sunday Observer the attacker was a disgruntled individual who acted alone and assaulted Nilfer Ibrahim who happened to be the contracted coach of the Joes team against his old school Kingswood.

What is most alarming, as being the case for almost 10 years, is that the violent incident that left Ibrahim in a wheelchair seeking treatment in hospital could also end up as yet another chronicle of violence that erupted at a schools rugby match only to find its way into the history books.

In this case it was an individual that plotted the whole scenario, not the usual spontaneous uprising of crowd violence which erupted at what is called the Bogambara stadium and no other sport in the island is associated with after-match violence the way it is with rugby.

Security experts would argue it is the lone wolf that can sometimes be deadlier than the pack causing more harm, meaning the violent trend in schools rugby has taken yet another sinister turn just short of someone pulling out a sharp weapon or squeezing the trigger as did happen at a club match in Kandy some years ago.

Some might argue the incident was isolated and not part of the wide spectrum of violence to engulf the sport, but rugby provides a fertile ground for hooligans and for how long can the authorities continue to turn a blind eye despite the media, the Sunday Observer in particular, sounding the warning many a time.

Schools rugby is no longer the breed it was 20 years ago when just two or three schools entered the commercial market. Today commercial watchers contend it is a 500 million rupee industry or more with at least 10 schools rated in the top bracket playing for prestige and pride.

Commercial partners rush in to join the scrum throwing in their investment hoping for results at the expense of teenage boys who in turn are showcasing to packed venues in a country that is also starved of sporting entertainment outside the Sri Lanka cricket team.

Tensions, expectations, harder, faster and the don’t-finish-as-loser syndrome come into play as commercial partners look for mileage while appeals for sanity on the playing field or in the stands are blown away.

Whether commercial partners of teams in the arena have made it clear they will not condone unsportsmanlike behavior and violent conduct among followers has not been made clear and it has now come to a point where the godfathers of school teams ought to take matters into their hands and declare they will have no truck with offending parties.

The so-called caretakers or custodians of schools rugby have become mere puppets or puppeteers who don’t seem to care too hoots over the continuous string of after-match violence while match officials and players have ended up in hospitals.

The ball is now in the hands of corporate companies that sponsor school teams and trophies to step in or risk being branded partners that sustain violent behaviour promoting their goods and services while at the same time allowing thuggery and hooliganism to thrive.