Last year in the month of April, Kandy lost one of its most versatile sportsmen, sports benefactors, and philanthropists and above all a gentleman of the highest caliber, E.W. Balasuriya. Many seem to have forgotten the past glorious moments of Kandy rugby, but there are still a few who remember the part played by the late E.W Balasuriya. His invaluable services for sports in Kandy is remembered by all even at times when changes are inevitable with sports taking a different turn with professionalism playing a vital role.
E.W. as he was popularly known was a great lover of cricket and represented his school. He first played for Dharmaraja College, Kandy and later for Ananda College, Colombo as an opening batsman.
He is the person who founded the Kandy Lake Club rugby team which later was changed to Kandy Rugby Football Club (KRFC) in view of rugby’s top administrators stopping Kandy Lake Club from playing professionals in the team, Kandy RFC went places in the rugby arena. E.W.’s Kandy Lake Cub was one of the finest sports organisations outside Colombo in the early days, adding rugger to there numerous other sports activities. At that time they played cricket, hockey, and also had iron sports.
Kandy Lake Club was founded in 1962, and this club reached great heights in sports. In 1963 they took up rugby and played in the “B” division. Some of the sports enthusiasts who backed and supported the club at rugby were Col. Stanley Ratwatte, Dr. C.D.L Fernando, Dr. Dago Gunawardene, and Dr. J.C. Blok. And the first rugby coaches were Col. Sydney Ratwatte and Maurice Perera; National Iron Sportsman Niyas Majeed led the first rugby side, the team was formed with products from St. Anthony’s, Trinity. St. Sylvester’s, Vidyartha and St. Paul’s. Except the Trinitians rest of them had never played rugby at that time. In 1966 they became the “B” division champions,
Vidyartha’s T.B . Wijesinghe led the side in a few games and later was pulled by CR & FC. Farook Dole took over the leadership and led the side to become the champions. In 1967 the club played for the first time in the “A” division — playing the very first game in the “A” division against the defending champions Havelocks. They held them to a 3 all draw at Havelock Park. The second game was against CH & FC, that game was played at Maitland Crescent and that too ended in a 3 all draw. Then in the second round the club beat Havelocks SC at Nittawela.
Some of the key players of the first “A” division side were Gavin Stevens, A. Ettipola, Tony de Silva, U, Marasinghe, George Thambiraja, Maurice Windus, Niyas Majeed, Nihal Jayatilake, Carl Fernando, Farook Dole, Hector Galuge, Maurice Silva, Didacus de Almeida, Mahes Sabarathnam and Tony Doole. In their very first year of “A” division they were placed third in the League behind Havelocks SC and CR & FC. In 1970, a sad day dawned for Kandy Lake Club when it received a knockout blow from the rugby authorities of that time for playing professional players in the team.
Later in 1971 E.W. formed Kandy RFC which played in the “A” division up to 1973. Then on a suggestion made by late Dr. K.B. Sangakkara, one time president of Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union, E.W. amalgamated Kandy RFC with Kandy Sports Club and played under one banner from 1974. They sported the Kandy Sports Club rugby jersey (White jersey with the red lion logo) and wore the Kandy RFC stockings (red and black striped).
In 1975 E.W. became the President of the Kandy Sport Club, Trinity Rugby Lion Iswan Omar was appointed to lead Kandy Sports Club in 1975 having earlier captained the KRFC in 1972, under the Presidency of E.W. Balasuriya. The team had a good season under difficult conditions. However, this side qualified to play in the Clifford Cup Knock Out Semi Finals at Havelock Park but lost to Sri Lanka Air Force late in the second extra time by 3 points. Then again in 1986 EW became the president once again and this time, the team went up to the semifinals of the R. Premadasa trophy tournament and lost. EW gave a big hand for cricket; in the 1960s Kandy Lake Club had a top class cricket side, and were also good in hockey and weight lifting.
Although E.W. Balasuriya is no more his memory will remain forever in the minds of all those who knew him, his qualities and above all his sportsmanship. He will not be forgotten by the rugby loving public of Kandy. It is very difficult to find such an all-round sports promoter, who had the highest regard and respect for sports promotion in Kandy. It was he who organised the first Cricket Test match at Trinity College Grounds, on a request made by the late Gamini Dissanayake.