Salesian Soccer in Sri Lanka
The Don Bosco Soccer Club, Negombo, has won the 2011 cup in the top division of the Sri Lankan soccer league. Fr Shiran Karawgodage SDB, who is now Provincial Economer and Project Director for the Salesians in Sri Lanka, has sent the following report and photographs.
Since its inception, Don Bosco Technical Centre in Negombo has had a youth centre in which soccer was the most popular game, loved by the vast majority of our youngsters. From time to time these youngsters were organized by some Salesians who were interested in the game as a team to play in local tournaments or friendly matches. There were also times when the team ceased to exist as there were no Salesians who were interested.
In the year 2004, I was appointed as Rector of Don Bosco Technical Centre. As our father and founder Don Bosco was a dreamer, I too dreamed of a Don Bosco soccer team which would be a model team in the Island. I dreamed of making this team exemplary in discipline and professionalism and becoming one day the TOP TEAM in the prestigious Premier Super League.
To realize these goals we had to do some serious planning and organizing. First we set up a management committee composed of former football players from the centre, a few Salesian Cooperators, people with management skills and a good coach. The previous Rector, Fr Felix, had built a very suitable football ground. Young people were attracted to the game more and more and their interest in the game gradually increased.
In the year 2005 we registered the team to play in Division 3 of the national league and it did fairly well. In 2008, we became Champions of Division 3 and were promoted to Division 2. In 2009, we became the Champions of Division 2 and were promoted to Division 1. At this juncture I realized that we had reached the level of professional soccer in our Island nation. I knew I would have to improve the management and look for funds to support the club.
We needed professionals to organize the club, so we decided to get the best coach available, the former national coach who at the time was working for a Soccer Club in Maldives. With the help of one of my friends, who later became a Salesian Cooperator, I managed to get him to come back to Sri Lanka and do the job for us. I also had to look for funds to support this project. Divine providence never failed us, but it was a great struggle to find money.
We managed to inculcate human and Christian values into these youngsters through sport as Don Bosco did in his time. Good numbers of players were recruited from our technical school and from the youth centre. Our players were also given jobs by some leading companies. By the year 2008, Don Bosco soccer team began to be popular in the Island and played well in the FA CUP knock out tournament in which almost all the soccer teams of the Island (156 teams) participated. In the year 2009 Don Bosco SC (Soccer Club) became runners up in Division 1 and entered the PREMIER SUPER LEAGUE TOURNAMENT which is comprised of the top twelve teams of the country.
At this point our coach was once again required as coach of the National Team and five of our players were chosen to play for the National Team. This was another dream of mine which was realized. I thanked God for all these graces with all our Salesians and young people. GOD WAS OUR STRENGTH AND SUPPORT. All the boys bore witness to this reality.
In the year 2010 Don Bosco SC reached the semi finals of the Premier Super League but lost to Sri Lanka Air Force team by two goals to one. It was a heart breaking experience for me, to our boys and to all our fans. Our team also reached the semi finals of the FA CUP in the same year and lost to Sri Lanka Navy in the penalty shoot out. That was another disappointment, but in the same year there were four players from Don Bosco SC in the National Team. These achievements of our youngsters always consoled me.
The boys kept on improving without being discouraged, and DON BOSCO SC became the most popular soccer team of the Island. On 4th April 2011 DON BOSCO SC created history in the game by becoming CHAMPIONS of the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (Super League).
Don Bosco Soccer Club has become the number one team in Sri Lanka and is well respected for its discipline, skills and team spirit. The team will take part in an overseas tournament sponsored by the Asian Football Federation from 21st of May to 26th of May 2011. The players are well trained to do well in this tournament. This year we again have three players in the currently touring National Team.