Posts Tagged ‘Colombo’

Colombo FC v Cooray SC, Saturday 10th March 2018, 4pm

March 29, 2018

Whilst the initial reason for the Sri Lanka trip had been the T20 international between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, there was no way that I could pass up an attempt to add to the list of countries where I’ve watched a football game.

The problem, however, was that the Sri Lanka Premier League season had finished a few weeks earlier. After a lot of effort, I managed to discover that a pre-season, or perhaps post-season, tournament known as the President Cup would have a fixture during our stay. The game between Colombo and Cooray was scheduled to take place at the City League football ground, a venue that wasn’t too far from our Fort area hotel.

Early that morning we went for a wander along the seafront with the intention of finding the ground. No such luck. We did however see a bit of wildlife and as we passed over a bridge we startled a three-foot long water monitor. It was just as well that we did startle it as it appeared to have plans for crossing a busy road. I see enough monitor corpses on the tarmac in Malaysia to know that they have as little road sense as a kid hearing ice cream chimes and our intervention probably extended its life by at least the ten minutes that we stood between it and the road.

We also saw pelicans that were perched, usually in pairs, on street lights. I know it’s not like seeing them in a nature reserve, but I suppose they will view it as their natural habitat.

Best of all though, were a couple of cobras. Sadly not just slithering around or spitting at passers-by but in a basket, craning their necks as a snake charmer piped them upwards. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing and before long Mr. Charmer was explaining that the snakes did not have any venom in them. I’ve no idea how that works, whether they are milked of their poison or whether there is a more permanent solution.

I probably don’t want to know either, I suppose, as I doubt it’s something that is in the best interest of the snakes. Anyway, we hung around long enough for him to produce a python from a sack which he draped around my neck and by doing so increased his tip to a fiver. You don’t see stuff like that at Seaton seafront.

As game time came around we decided to increase our chances of getting there by taking a tuk-tuk. The driver claimed to know the venue and despite my doubts as to his geographical knowledge or his ability to resist a detour to a magic carpet shop he successfully delivered us to the City League Ground in good time.

We went in at the gate next to the pavilion and were sold 200 rupee tickets for upstairs seats behind the goal. This was the posh section and as we wandered around it looked as if our ninety pence admission might also have got us a cup of tea and a chapati. The pavilion had been built, or at least paid for, by the chairperson of Basel FC as part of the tsunami relief effort.  That struck me as a very generous gesture and undoubted proof that there’s no such thing as karma, otherwise I’d have expected Massimo’s last minute header in that semi final to have been glanced wide rather than powered into the net

However, the view from the pavilion was through some wire fencing. Perhaps the posh people of Colombo have a fear of being struck by a Rochemback style free-kick. I’m happy to risk a smack in the chops though for a clearer view and so we gave up the chance of food and drink and moved to the 50 rupee seats along the side of the pitch where I could peer over the top of the fence.

The pitch was in a bad way after the mid-afternoon rain and kick-off was delayed by twenty minutes to enable kids to mop up puddles whilst other people re-painted the lines. A few fellas had large sponges which they would use to soak up the water before re-depositing it five yards away, no doubt for the next bloke to deal with.

Once this group-stage tie got underway Colombo, the current league champions, looked a little better than their opponents Cooray, although I’m not sure how many first teamers were on show. A couple of the subs looked to be lacking fitness, so perhaps this tournament was a chance for some squad rotation. The wife and daughter of one sub were sat next to us so I was pleased for them when he got on.

I wasn’t expecting the standards of play to be up to much, despite these both being teams from the top division in the country. However, everyone passed the ball well on an unfavourable surface and I think the clubs would probably do well against, say, Northern league teams. Neither side had the big stoppers that you tend to see in that league but with the ball rarely in the air being built like a brick shithouse may not have been much of an advantage.

Colombo took the lead in the first half and then doubled their lead with a penalty in the second. The twenty minute delay in starting due to the water mopping meant that we had to head off with ten minutes remaining to get to the cricket game we had lined up for that evening.

By the time we left it was very dark and with no floodlights available I doubt the ref would have played much additional time. A subsequent check to find out the score turned out to be a complete waste of time as it seems that the group stages of the President Cup isn’t remotely newsworthy in Sri Lanka.

Royals v Thomians, Saturday 10th March 2018, 10.30am

March 28, 2018

Colombo is less than a four-hour flight away from KL and so when I noticed a weekend T20 international between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh I thought it might be worth a visit. Jen and I arrived on the Friday night and on Saturday morning we had the task of collecting our tickets from the Sri Lankan cricketing headquarters at the Sinhalese Sports Club. The game wasn’t taking place there, it was at the newer R. Premesada stadium a few kilometres away, but I suppose it made sense to ensure that everyone arriving for that evening’s action already had their ticket in their hand.

The SSC wasn’t the easiest place to find and so we made use of a tuk-tuk. It goes without saying that the driver had no desire to take us straight there, but as we had plenty of time we agreed to his suggestion of stopping off at some famous buddhist temple.

It was an odd sort of temple, on one hand it had the usual golden statues, but it was also crammed with all sorts of bric-a-brac, old photos, ornaments and thirty year old cameras. There was even a radio cassette player from the eighties and a video recorder that you could probably carbon date to ten years later. It made me wonder whether I should convert our UK lockup into a place of worship.

The SSC was incredibly busy, far more so than you’d expect, even if a lot of people had left collecting their T20 tickets until the day of the game. The real reason for the crowds was that there was an annual Schools match, the 139th Battle of the Blues. Whilst you’d probably say Eton v Harrow at Lords would be the nearest English equivalent in terms of a sporting contest, the atmosphere was more like the annual Oxford v Cambridge rugby game at Twickenham.

Well, with something like that going on, the tuk-tuk driver’s proposal that he take us to some gems market around the corner was never going to have much appeal. We told him that we were fine for diamonds, picked up our tickets for the evening game and then set about trying to get inside the ground.

We were directed all around the perimeter but couldn’t find a ticket office. Eventually at Gate 1 we were told that there should be tickets available in around five minutes. A quarter of an hour later we were quietly told by a young lad handing out those cardboard signs with a 4 on them that the game was actually sold out and that the gatekeepers didn’t want to pass on the bad news.

We wandered back in the direction that we had come from and when I saw a bloke with a couple of tickets in his hand I asked him where I could buy some. “Here” he replied and offered me the two that he had. They were three-day tickets with a face value of 3,800 Sri Lankan Rupees, which is around seventeen quid. As this was day two of a three-day game he discounted them by a third and asked for 2,500. Result.

We made our way back to Gate 1 and after giving a thumbs up to the boundary card distributor we were into the ground. We passed through a section with food stalls and made our way upstairs to our seats in the pavilion grandstand. We were just in time to nab front row seats which, apart from a stanchion, gave us a decent view of the field.

Whilst the outside had been busy, the inside of the SSC was at another level. I read that there had been eighteen thousand attending the day before, including the Sri Lanka Prime Minister who had quite rightly prioritised an old boys day out over paying closer attention to the domestic crisis that had necessitated him announcing a State of Emergency just two days earlier. It looked as if there were at least as many spectators for the second day as the first.

The stands were sub-divided into numerous enclosures occupied by groups of old boys and current boys. There was a mix of live and recorded music blaring out with the drummers and trumpeters competing to drown each other out. It was obviously a very big social occasion with few people watching the cricket as they caught up with old classmates.

The Royals were three down in their first innings, responding to the St Thomas’ score of 166. For most of the morning we watched a decent partnership between two lads who will no doubt be reliving it over a beer at this event for the next fifty years. It was brought to an end when the big fast bowler took his fourth wicket of the innings and Royal College went in at lunch about seventy behind with six wickets remaining.

The lunch break was the signal for a lot of the spectators to wander around the outfield, catching up with old mates and documenting their attendance with selfies. We had stuff to do and with rain in the air we did a lap around the edge and then headed out, ears ringing. At the exit we handed over our tickets, wristbands and pass outs to the boundary card fella who had been helpful when we’d been ticketless. Hopefully he was able to put them to good use.