Isipathana College - Soccer Kings in 2002
By M.H. Yakeem
Isipathana is well-known in Rugby circles, but a little-known fact is the school created history on the soccer field during 2002. It was in 1998 that an old Isipathanian, Sarath Master, got the juniors to attend soccer practices. He utilized his own funds and time to coach them with the intricate skills of this sport, which would enable them to fit into other outdoor games as well.
In 1999, the OBU elected two of their reputed sportsmen, M.D. Ifthikar (a famous rugby star) and M.H. Yakeem (well-known in the field of hockey), to promote the game among the juniors, and their efforts met with tremendous success. Both Ifthikar and Yakeem (who were classmates), took this opportunity to bring prestige to the College in this sport and never looked back.
At the time Isipathana was well-known for their prowess in Rugby, Cricket, Hockey, but not soccer. In 2000, soccer gained popularity, and many youngsters of all age groups turned out in numbers for practices, which enabled the school to form teams in all age groups. A word of appreciation should go to Principal Upali Gunasekera, who gave his utmost support and cooperation to achieve great heights in this sport.
Jagath Alwis, a prominent figure in the field of business, took over the reins as President of the OBU in 2001/2002. He played a major role to uplift the College and Sports, and made a generous contribution to Soccer. His remarks were that Isipathana College should be the kings of Soccer, and this was proved beyond doubt. In 2002, the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL), inaugurated an under-12 All Island Schools tournament for the first time, and around 540 Schools participated. The tournament was held at Race Course ground.
Isipathana juniors were coached by Udayasiri Master, (present junior Rugby coach of St. Peter's College) and M.H. Yakeem. They got together and inculcated soccer skills to these youngsters, and they emerged runner-up at this inaugural tournament. The under-19 team entered the All Island Brazil Cup final and emerged runners-up. The under12, 14 and 16 teams emerged Champions in the Western Province - which is a unique feat - since no other school has achieved this honour on the Soccer field.
Two of the soccer players, Dinusha Chaturanga and Riza Mubarak, later switched over to rugby, and gained fame in this sport and went on to represent Sri Lanka. M. Naushad was a Hockey star and presently a leading referee in Asia.
Isipathana lads of that era will remember the dedicated service rendered by Palitha Sir (MIC Seniors), Midipolawatte and Deepthi Sir (MIC Juniors), Gamini Saratchandra Sir (PoG) and all staff members, along with the OBU Committee and Old Boys, who guided them to bring glory and honour, which was a remarkable achievement.
A member of the Isipathana OBU can serve in the Committee for only 3-years, and so in 2003, Yakeem and Ifthikar, after rendering a yeoman service to the College, had to hand over the reins to their successors to take the game forward, but sadly, from there on the sport declined.
The cradle of any sport is the school, and hope the newly elected President of Football Sri Lanka will consider the 19-year past glory of the game (at Isipathana), by initiating a training programme for schoolboys’ island wide, as the country has an abundance of talent waiting to be discovered, who could bring fame to our motherland. An important factor is to see that dedicated MICs are appointed in Schools who can take up the responsibility and properly guide the youngsters. By doing this the lost status of soccer could be achieved as in the past.