• Sri Lankan children have unimaginable talent. We must provide them a platform to prove it.

    Today Sri Lanka’s Sports Industry needs much encouragement. For years, we have been a nation identified by our cricket and while our national teams have contributed enormously in strengthening the game globally, there are many other sports in this country which need to be highlighted.

    Today as much as Sri Lanka enjoys being highlighted as a cricketing nation and ofcourse we are proud of it, Sri Lanka has also contributed immensely towards global rugby. And one of the leading projects launched to expose Sri Lanka rugby to the world was the Carlton Super 7s International Rugby Tournament which was my pet project launched in 2011/2012.

    The Tournament which was organised yearly by the Ceylon Super Sports and Carlton Sports Club, transformed the lives of many young talented rugby players in Sri Lanka who went on to play for some of the leading clubs. The Tournament also placed Sri Lanka Rugby on the global map, strengthening the island’s sports sector and boosting Sri Lanka’s image as a sporting nation.

    Today the Carlton Super 7s International Rugby Tournament is not played anymore. With the change in government in 2015, the UNP government preferred to change its name but later the Tournament itself discontinued. The reasons of it being discontinued is unclear, but if it is political, then it is a big disappointment as the Carlton Super 7s not only exposed Sri Lankan rugby to the world, but it also transformed the lives of many young players in a span of a few years.

    Since its inception in 2011/2012, the Carlton Super 7s transformed into an IPL like tournament. It started with nine teams from nine provinces selecting the best local players and these players eventually faced the best international players when the tournament kicked off in Sri Lanka. This allowed us, to identify talent in our provinces and those children who deserved to be recognized were then exposed in front of international players and international coaches.

    These players were even trained by international coaches ahead of the tournament and there were players as young as 21 years old who could be molded to play rugby for international clubs, bringing much prestige to Sri Lanka.

    Furthermore, in the few years that the Tournament was held, we were able to attract sports tourism which is very much lacking in this country presently. During the last sevens tournament which was held in 2014, the Tournament was broadcasted on Setanta TV via CSN, which attracted a large global audience and also promoted Sri Lanka as a sporting and touristic destination.

    Today, Sri Lanka needs many more Tournaments such as the Carlton Super 7s in order to boost our sports sector and identify raw talent. Sri Lanka is a nation which has unimaginable talent. Every district I visit, I make it a point to meet students and the youth to identify what more can be done for them. The talent these children have is inspiring. They only need to be given a platform to prove this.

    While rugby is a game I have been involved in since childhood, Sri Lanka also needs to launch tournaments in several other sports, which can boost our youngsters. As much as cricket has brought us fame and prestige, we also need to develop other sports so that our talented brothers and sisters can be given a platform to go out to the world and compete with international players. We need to visit each district and hunt for talent. Many other countries do this, but unfortunately, Sri Lanka has not progressed much in this field.

    I have always believed that politics should not interfere with sports. As sports transforms the lives of talented youngsters. No matter which government is in power, sports brightens the lives of many and brings communities closer.

    I have also maintained that our children are our future. Sri Lanka will only prosper if our children can be provided the facilities to prove their talent. There is much more that needs to be done in every sector for our children, starting from the sports sector, and my work for them has only begun.

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