W.L. Siriwardhana of Gampaha, who was known as legendary `Volleyball Sira` bade farewell to Sri Lanka.
Mr. Siriwardhana was the captain of Sri Lanka`s national volleyball team for 12 years in 1950s and 60s. He was renowned in the Asian region as a gifted dasher. He was popular among Sri Lankans as much as the brilliant cricketers were among cricket fans. However, he was not among the sportsmen the President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently awarded for their lifetime achievements. His funeral was also unattended by political bigwigs.
Volleyball is still the national game of Sri Lanka although it never reached to professional level.
Volleyball is a sport Sri Lankans can play anywhere in the island with low capital cost since the equipments and standard courts do not cost a fraction of expenses for a game like cricket.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka although less than thousand people play standard cricket. Few turfs are available even in Colombo except what are available the international cricket grounds. Most of the outstation schools and clubs play cricket on matting made of coir string. Tennis ball cricket that is played by the majority of the ordinary cricketers is far below cricket standards.
Most Sri Lankans do not play any kind of cricket although they are ardent fans of the game. Most of these fans are not healthy people since they do not play or exercise at all. One of them died in a heart attack recently when Sri Lanka beat India in a thrilling match to enter the semi-finals of T-20 World Cup.
Sports must be promoted as a human exercise and not as a way having sheer thrill or betting if a nation needs healthy and fit populace.
Sri Lanka can promote volleyball among people easily if it really needs it to be made the national sport. The chairmanship of Sri Lanka Volleball Federation itself reflects the pathetic situation of the national sport. The federation has failed to seek a powerful person to lead it.
Present Chairman Dilan Perera is a Deputy Minister of the government and he laments he has been denied a cabinet portfolio despite his presence in the parliament since 1994. Sri Lanka`s national sport is also like him.