Sri Lanka Masters Hockey Men teams to take part in 2022 World Cup in England

Colombo : Sri Lanka Masters Hockey men teams will leave the country on Tuesday, August 9th 2022 to take part in the second Masters Hockey World Cup scheduled to be held from August 12-21 in Nottingham, England.

Sri Lanka will play in both over 35 and over 40 age categories. The teams comprising of past national players have been preparing for the World Cup tournament for the last one year despite difficult conditions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis in the country.

Sri Lanka national hockey team is currently ranked 34th in the world, 8th in Asia and 4th in South Asia. It has improved from 40th place in 2018. However, the poor infrastructure with two unusable Astro turf artificial hockey grounds and lack of sponsorships have deprived the sport to be played at its best. Sri Lanka Masters Hockey Association (SLMHA) was established in 2012 with an objective to uplift the game through the veterans who have played for the national team against mighty opponents and won when the country did not have sufficient resources.

The SLMHA has united most of the past national players to achieve this goal though it has been a tough challenge due to multiple constraints.

The veterans’ body had been able to have some training programme for selected rural schools which lack facilities, hold two Masters Hockey Leagues and send an over 40 team for the first time to the Masters World Cup in Barcelona, Spain four years ago.

The team won against Denmark and ranked well in the 2018 World Cup.

Sri Lanka national hockey team has never played in a World Cup as other countries in Asia including India, Pakistan, and Japan who have been at the top in the game.

The game has suffered as there has been hardly any sponsors to look into the financing matter. The SLMHA initiated the move to participate in the Masters World Cup in 2018 to give more exposure to the veterans with an aim to give the younger generation for the betterment of the game.

In over 35 age category, Sri Lanka will play in A group which comprises of England, Spain, Ghana, and South Africa, while the island nation will play against mighty Germany, South Africa, England, France, Wales, and Ireland in the over 40 teams.

This will be Sri Lanka Masters Men hockey team’s second World Cup tournament in the history. It participated in the 2018 World Cup held in Barcelona, Spain and won against Denmark by 2-1 in a ranking competition. This year, the over 35 age group will play its first match against Spain while the over 40 will play their first game against Germany at University Boulevard grounds in Nottingham on August 12, the first day of the tournament. The over 35 team will be led by P. Heenatigala, a former national hockey player who also has represented police and army in his career, while Upul Fernando, a Vennappuwa forward who is now playing for CH & FC will be the vice-captain.

The over 40 team will be led by Devan Chaminda Perera, a double international (Hockey and Soccer) veteran who led both junior and senior Sri Lanka national hockey teams during his national duty, while Nadith Kudagama, one the best dribblers Sri Lanka has produced will be the vice-captain. The team will return on August 24 after the completion of the tournament.

Sri Lanka National Masters Hockey Association is obliged to thank the dedicated coaches Otto Preena and Ashok Peiris who have molded and mentored the teams with their decades of international experience. Preena was the head coach when the Masters over 40 participated in the last World Cup in Spain.

“It is a tough tournament and we know it is not going to be easy,” Duncan Devendra, the Secretary of Sri Lanka National Masters Hockey Association said. He further stated that “Without this kind of exposure, we cannot improve hockey in this country where Sri Lanka was almost in par with India and Pakistan in 1960s and seventies.”

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is the main sponsor of the World Cup participating teams while national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines has come forward as the official airline partner and Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Ltd is the co-sponsor for the team.

“We are happy to be the main sponsor as we saw an opportunity to promote Sri Lanka tourism at the World Cup to boost forex inflows at a desperate time amid economic crisis. These hockey Masters could be the best Ambassadors to do that,” says Mr. Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. “Sports Tourism can be a major way of creating unity and friendship with other nations, and spreading a positive message about Sri Lanka to the world, giving a realistic image and a clear description about the island destination. These players are the ideal ambassadors to do so. With their performance and also with their representation, they will be able to encourage travelers from all across the world to be interested and seek more about Sri Lanka with its hospitality, friendly people, diversity and easy accessibility of locations, and also as their future travel destination.

I see this as a marvelous opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka to the world, and also to bring more revenue to the country and rejuvenate the Tourism sector, which is crucial as Sri Lanka is facing a rather turbulent time.” “We also expect to host a similar world cup tournament as this in the near future, with 18 countries participating. So it will be another major influence on promoting the destination across the world.

I wish the Sri Lanka Masters Hockey teams the best of luck with their endeavors to keep the nation’s flag flying high, and to continue with their good work,” Mr. Gajabahu says.

“This is not a short term goal, but rather a long term one because many of the foreigners who hear about Sri Lanka could visit the country in the future. We see it as a golden opportunity through this partnership.” he further added. Sri Lankan Airlines is the official airlines partner for the World Cup tour. “It is a good niche place to market Sri Lankan Airlines and tourism. We see value in this partnership and for the first time, we are partnering with Sri Lanka Masters hockey men teams. We hope this will be a win-win partnership for the country, hockey, and the Airline,” Richard Nuttall, the Sri Lankan Airline CEO, said.

Nippon Paints Lanka (Pvt) Ltd has come on board as the cosponsor for the World’s largest hockey carnival. “We are thrilled in partnering with the veteran hockey teams and this is the first time we are doing something of this nature. Hockey is a sport that has been long neglected and needs to be nurtured carefully if we are to perform well.

We do this as one of our corporate social responsibilities to improve the standards of the sport in the country,” Nemantha Abeysinghe, the Group General Manager of Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Ltd said. “We are in fact delighted to have come on board with Sri Lanka Masters National Hockey Association for the recently concluded 9-A-side league tournament & the upcoming Masters tour of England 2022. We are planning to have a long-standing relationship with the Masters after having come for the first time as a sponsor for Hockey,” Abeysinghe added.

Teams Over-35 Men Prasanna Heenatigala (Captain), Sathiya Rasiah, Dananjaya Peiris, Upul Fernando (Vice-Captain), Pasan Mallawaarachchi, Thushara Manoj, Roshan Thotagamuwa, Priyadarshan Kiridaran, Nicholas Anthony, Sherwin Moral, Kaveendra Nanayakkara, Suranjith Devamullage, Dinesh Jayakody, Joy Rasanayagam, and Hasantha Jasinarachchi.

Over-40 Men D.C. Perera (Captain), Kasun Herath, Linus Jayasekaran, Diluka Weerasooriya, Yohan Lewke, Sanjay Edgar, Shihar Aneez, Sampath Subasinghe, Lushantha Perera, Marlon Jacobs, Mahesh Matiwala, Duncan Devendra, Nadith Kudagama (Vice-Captain), Ashok Peiris, Anuradha Fernando, and Deepike Kariyawasam