What happened recently in Galle during the South’s leading schools cricket big match was just another indication of an alarming erosion of basic human values, lack of sportsmanship, a failure to understand the principles and meaning of sports and also downright stupidity that has been becoming the hallmark among Sri Lankan sports fans since of late.
Richmond who emerged Sri Lanka’s undisputed school cricket champions this season as well as last season had their traditional rivals Mahinda on the ropes. Mahinda were still requiring three runs to avoid an innings defeat when the ninth wicket fell with more than an hour’s play remaining.
The Mahinda supporters who could not accept the inevitable defeat that was coming, invaded the field and disrupted the match, doing serious damage worth several hundred thousand rupees to the Galle International Stadium wicket as well.
Police had to fire tear gas and use force to disperse the mob in a repetition of last year’s scenes at the same big match, which Mahinda managed to save by the skin of their teeth.
The match referee had little hesitation in awarding victory to Richmond. Though the animalistic behaviour of some fans proved to be somewhat of an anti-climax for a magnificent game of cricket, it did not completely take the gloss off a brilliant performance by a champion team that brought the school a big match win after a prolonged 44-year wait.
What is more distressing is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. School sports events in this country have increasingly become prey to hooliganism that is spreading like a cancer, which can easily be explained as a reflection of the Sri Lankan society at large, fast-becoming a moral desert.
Cricket has become violent but the situation in rugby, both at club level and school level is much worse. It has become so bad that brawls at rugby matches have become usual occurrences, so much so that the media doesn’t even bother to report such violence unless there had been serious injuries to involved parties.
The violence surrounding some of the security forces’ teams has been distressing, as these officers are usually seen as the men paid by the public to protect the people of the country. When the very men use intimidating tactics to batter their opponents and their supporters into submission, it looks somewhat awkward.
This open thuggery perpetrated by whoever, is a blatant insult to the spirit of sports that aims to foster fair-play and justice on a level playing field.
The people who are simply not smart enough to understand sports as a means of cultivating, instilling and developing good qualities in human beings seem to believe in a win-at-all-costs philosophy.
We know sometimes international stars resort to cheating in sports such as the use of drugs or indulging in fixing to make big money, as the stakes involved are unbelievably high.
But whatever one achieves through violence or other untoward means are not things one can carry beyond the grave. This makes reputation and dignity something to cherish than a petty victory achieved through questionable means. Sports are played in public so it is no secret to the people what happens in the arena.
We only hope that sportsmen and women as well as their fans in this country would become mature to a level that they would not be a disgrace to the very name of sports and will be able to end the day with a clear conscience.