Dilroy Fernando With ICOIC

At the time our Alma Mater is celebrating the 60th anniversary, we at ICOIC thought that it would be great if we get to know about our prestigious Isipathanians, who have been an inspiration to our Country and a pride to our College. We have dedicated a special coloumn for this great purpose. ' Inspiring Pathanians With Praseedh ' First Isipathanian to be featured in this coloumn is none other than the world renowned rugby personnel and a proud product of our college Mr.Dilroy Fernando. The first time we contacted him for this interview he was in Malaysia conducting a training for 52 coaches there. As soon as he reached the Kualalumpur airport he responded to my email and informed me that he will meet me as soon as he comes to Sri Lanka. We met him at CR club house and posted my questions. Here's the man who has officiated legends like Jonah Lomu in the field is sharing his success with me.

Praseedh – In which year did you leave the College?

Dilroy – 1983

Praseedh – Do you remember the first day and the last day at the College?

Dilroy – First day I can’t remember. I was at Mahanama for a year. Then I came to Isipathana. What happened was my father was not in Colombo. At that time my brother was studying at Isipathana, my father was serving in the army in the North. I still remember the first few days at Isipathana carrying the suitcase and going to my class passing the ‘Kongaha’.
Last day of course, I didn’t have a last day. Because I still haven’t collected my leaving certificate or the character certificate. I captained the rugby team in 1982. The first ever unbeaten team produced by Isipathana and soon after the rugby season we toured Bangkok. I was given a free ticket by late Mr.Sarath Senanayaka, one of our old boys. He was the Managing agent for Cathay Pacific and Alitalia at that time. He offered me a job. He said ‘I’m offering you a free ticket, the moment you are back you have to work in my company as an employee’. Soon after I got back from Bangkok, he sent the car to my place and said ‘you are going to start working’. So I don’t have a last day because still I haven’t officially left the College.

Praseedh– Do you still keep in touch with your college friends?

Dilroy – I still keep in touch with a lot of friends. People like Roger Rodrigo, Aruna Uduwelagedera , Oscar Wanigasekara and Brig. Naresh Wanigasinghe who are lifetime friends. Nice thing happened when I was coming here now. I stopped by at a restaurant and somebody who was going on a motorcycle stopped and came looking for me. Somebody said ‘anna oyawa kauda follow karala awilla bike eka nevettuva’. So I looked, one guy was wearing a helmet tall dark and I didn’t know who was it. Then he asked me Dilroy maava mathakada?' 'Nehe' I said. ‘Isipathaneta giye.’ I said I can't recall. 'Roy', he played cricket with me. I met him after 30 years. He has seen me going to the restaurant so he has stopped and came to speak to me. That’s what Isipathanians are. After 30 years. 'Mama oyawa TV eke dakinava eheth oyata katha karanna vidihak nehe. Hamba una eka bohomasanthosai.' It was Roy was a spinner and played with me in 1981. Harsha Deepal captained in '81. That was Roy’s last year. There’s Maxwell Dias, Bowela. All of them are abroad. But we meet whenever they come down. I played, cricket, rugger, basketball, athletics, swimming.

Praseedh- Do you remember the names of the Teachers and Principals at your time?

Dilroy – Of course. Mr.Leelananda. You can’t forget him you know. Isipathana rugby, we owe a lot to him. He used to encourage us so much. When I was playing under 15 & 17, every year we lost. We lost to Royal,St. Thomas’s, and St.Peter’s. Every year we were losing. I still remember before a Royal or a Thomas’s match he invites the rugby players to the stage, gives a speech and garlanded us. If we were playing in Kurunegala against Maliyadeva he’ll travel with his family there and support us. When he left Isipathana, Colonel Kudaligama took over. He also supported us a lot. Mr.Mutukumarana&Mr.Zainudeen., then when I was captaining it was late Mr.Gamini Chandrasekara. All of them were supportive. We used to be the naughty boys, but whenever there was an issue in school we always stood up. Whenever there was an issue in a class or somewhere we used to be the first to attend. Even before the teachers and the Principal. We didn’t allow anybody to touch our school. School name was always safeguarded.

Praseedh - What inspired you to play rugby ?

Dilroy - My father encouraged us to do sports. Do u see this mark in my eye brow? I was in grade 3, one day i was carrying my suitcase and walking to my class. We used to play rugby with amba ataya (mango seeds), specially tap rugger under the 'kongaha'. Temple and the kongaha were 2 try lines. When I was walking to the class Harsha Deepal thought I was also playing rugby. He came and pushed me. I went and hit one of the pillars there and started bleeding. I was sent home and Harsha Deepal was punished by the junior school Principal Mr.Jayasuriya. I think we got the inspiration to play rugby from Havelocks. We used to jump over the wall and used to watch matches. I started playing when I was 12 years old. I captained under 15, 17, 2nd XV and 1st XV. In '82, we were the only unbeaten school, we won the 7’s championship and the league, and unfortunately there were no knockout tournament. We were voted the most popular rugby playing school of the year.

Praseedh - What is your favourite rugby team and who is the favourite player?

Dilroy – Player is Jonah Lomu. Favourite team is South Africa (springboks).

How was your professional rugby career started?

When I was 18 years old I played for Havelocks. I was still schooling. Even though I was a schoolboy, I was in the 1st squad of Havies 7 a side team. At that time there were no Isipathanians playing for CR. CR was dominated by Royal, St. Thomas’s and Trinity. All Isipathanians ended up at Havies. Once on a day of a match I was coming to school and met up with an accident. After that every match I played, I got concussed after getting tackled. After the season, in '81 January we were training at Havies. The tournament was in February. Again I got injured at practices. I still remember I don’t want to mention the name, Havies official who took me to accident service. I was given Panadol and a meal, after that he got into a taxi and gave me 5 rupees and told me to go by bus. I went home and told my father. I was still continuing to play for Havies. In '81 at the school's 7's, I was playing for the college. It was at CR. We were at the old media box. I got badly injured in the quarter final game. In semifinals Sujeewa Cooray of Royal College tackled me and I got further injured. Then in the finals also I played for sometime and got tackled and had to leave the playing area. When I woke up I saw our coach Mr.O.W.R.Perera was there others who rushed into see me was Dr.Fred Perera of CR, Mr.Malik Samarawickrama, and Dr.Tony Zilva (3 doctors). Also the CR captain was there. They were inquiring about the injury and Mr.O.W.R.Perera said I was carrying it for a long time. They said the next day they will arrange the doctors to check on my injury. Malik sent his car with the driver to my place; he took me to the hospital. They did all scanning, x-rays, reports and also paid for my medicine. I was not even playing for CR. I told my father the way Havies treated me for my injury and the way now CR is treating me. My father told me it’s life you better learn from things like this. It’s your choice your future. Later they invited me to play for CR. I told Mr.O.W.R.Perera. In '82 I was still playing for Isipathana. Mr.O.W.R.Perera told me not to go alone. I remember I met him near Thimbirigasyaya colour lights and we were having plain tea and hoppers. He told me to take Bowela and Hector Gunathilaka along with me. So we played knockout for CR. We lost finals to Havelocks. In '82 at the club 7s we beat Havelocks in the finals. Before me there were few Isipathanians playing for CR, like Shriyantha Rajakaruna, Mahinda Jayawardena. After '82 CR was keen on taking many Isipathana players to their team. Later many Isipathanians captained CR and then went on to play for the country.

Praseedh - How did you get into the Rugby administration?

Dilroy - I think I got administration skills from my father. Also from the opportunities I got at Isipathana. When I was playing rugby I learned from people like Neomal. A senior person or the captain or the vice-captain had to mark the players register. When Lesley De Silva captained in '81, I was like the acting secretary. All the letters were drafted by me, getting permission for players to go home early and things like that were done by me. When we were touring Bangkok Mr.Gamini Chandrasekara was the Principal. I told him sir we are going to go on this tour and we are not getting adequate support from the old boys. I took the leadership and did letters. Got the letterheads printed. And we started collecting funds for our tour. I was coordinating and giving letters to players and monitoring them. We were going out collecting money. We did a souvenir. We were short of about hundred and fifty thousand Rupees. So we approached old boys like Fauzul Khalid and somehow persuaded them and collected the money. That basically gave me confidence in leadership and organizing events. When I was in school as a 19 year old kid I got all these experiences. Which I have put it to practice and advanced from there. I’m happy I got an opportunity like that at that time, it was a huge benefit. Now I’m running my own rugby academy. First of its kind in Sri Lanka. It was formed in 2003. It’s called A-goal rugby academy. We started with about 15 to 20 kids and now we have over 170 kids registered. I've had about 600 kids who have joined and left. Once they reach the age of 18 they have to leave the academy. I've got 14 full time coaches with me now. I have held several positions at Isipathana. I didn’t get the captaincy at CR, because I was from Isipathana. It was given to somebody else and I got invitations to play for Havelocks and Security Forces but I didn’t want to leave CR. I was helping Mr.O.W.R.Perera a little bit. We thought why we don’t form a rugby committee. OBA was not that supportive of rugby at that time. So we thought we’ll form a committee. No other school had a rugby committee at that time. We had our first meeting I remember Mr.O.W.R.Perera was there, myself, Maxi, Wasantha, Senarupa Jayawardhana, and 7 of us. Chairman was the Principal. I was elected Secretary and thats how it started. After that I was forced to become the Joint Secretary of the OBA. I was very young. Only about 25. Then I came back to CR. They appointed me as the Chairman – Rugby, I was holding that position for number of years. At Isipathana I was the Chairman Rugby for about 11 years. Then I went overseas and came back. Then I joined N-Kar as the Managing Director of N-Kar travels. Then I got an opportunity from Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) as the CEO. I worked there for about 4 years. Then I was appointed Director – Sports at CR. 2 years as a consultant at CR. Then I moved out and I was getting many offers. When I took over it was at a loss of 8.5 million Rupees and when I left we had 32 million Rupees in accounts. Sri Lanka was ranked 68th in the world and the 7’s team was ranked 8th in Asia. Then wihin 2 years we became the 40th in the world. 7’s team became 3rd in Asia. Im also working for the International Rugby Board (IRB) on assignment basis as an educator and a trainer. I was appointed to IRB assignment in 2001 now there are about 60 to 70 trainers right throughout Asia and we have 3 Sri Lankans there. I was the first to be appointed from Sri Lanka.

Praseedh - What is your role in promoting American Football in Sri Lanka?

Dilroy - There were loads of issues at Sri Lanka Rugby. Lack of governance, lack of accountability and lack of transparency because of this we didn’t want to get involved in rugby administration. Also I was the former president of the referee society and I’ve been leading it for many years. I’ve refereed highest number of international matches by any Sri Lankan. I’ve done 34 test matches, including the Asian games finals between Japan and Korea. I’ve ran touch in Commonwealth games finals when legends like Jonah Lomu and Serevi were playing. It’s again first time a Sri Lankan and an Isipathanian had done that. I gave up international refereeing after the 2008 World Cup in Dubai. Then I was doing training programmes. I have done trainings in over 16 countires in Asia. I have involved in developing and introducing the sport to new countries like Kyrgystan, Pakistan, Vietnam, Korea and also India at the time they started.

I don’t know how American football identified me as the key person to handle its operation in Sri Lanka. When they first invited me, I laughed and said 'no'. Later they explained me the plan and said they have their regional office in India. I was convinced. So I went there and I thought this is goinig to be a good challenge. Then I informed IRB about it. Srilanka rugby is full of politics so I thought of taking a break from it for a moment. American football had an interview with me and then they wanted me to be the CEO of American football in Sri Lanka. Later they wanted me to serve in the regional main board. First tournament will be held in India in 2012 October between teams from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. They want me to do a similar role like I did at IRB in developing the sport in the region. Interestingly, now they told me to head the refereeing section also. So, I’ll be flying to India and USA to learn about these things in coming days. For me American Football is Greek. I don’t know much. I know loads of people wathc the game in Sri Lanka. Loads of Sri Lankans are interested in playing American football. Other interesting thing is Praseeedh, We had a training programme in Kukuleganga. 94 players took part in the 5 day programme. We selected 45 players. Now, few former Sri Lankan rugby captains have shown interest in playing American football I don’t wanna mention the names. We are forming another team in Kandy. I think one day American football will take over rugby in Sri Lanka.

What do you think of the current status of the College?

To be frank I have not been involved with the school for past few years. One of the reason is I have been travelling a lot. I have been out of the country most of the time. But I have been going for rugby matches and the big match whenever possible. What I think is now we should let the younger generation to take part in the school’s asdministrartion. New blood should come and take over from where we have stopped.

Praseedh - Your message to old boys

Dilroy – My main request is all of them to be united. I move around with loads of people in club level and national level. When it comes to schools and the unity, they are far ahead of us. Even when it comes to rugby union’s elections you can see, other schools are supporting their old boys to be appointed in boards, leaving all their differences aside. As an Isipathanian there I can see it’s happening. Sadly we don’t have people coming into channels to hold key positions. We have producerd top players, top coaches and referees. But they are not showing any interest in getting involved in the administration. Thank god Charith (Kodagoda) has come for refereeing. I’m supporting him to be a top level person after me. For the school to do well, we need to have people in key positions. Then only even if somebody speaks against your school you can fight back. My message is be united, support your colleagues, take them, train them, take them forward and go along with them so you can support the college. If you fight amongst you, then there wil be no one to fight for you at the top.

Praseedh - What is your message to the College students?

Dilroy – My message is learn from your old boys, be disciplined. Number one is discipline. In matches, we have to win or we have to lose. In life it’s the same you win one day, lose one day. I have done business, I have badly lost sometimes, but you have to accept it with true spirit. In marriage also it could happen to you. The message you can learn from a school like Isipathana, I’m glad that I went to Isipathana because I can move in the society with anybody. Riches, the poor people, middle class and people from all walks of life. Also we have faced hard times, I rememebbr when I was playing cricket for Isipathana, when we wanted to play we didn’t have balls. Our master in charge has not brought balls because he didn’t have enough money. Rugby was also the same. We didn’t have balls to practice. But we went through the mill. We really really worked hard towards it and today Isipathana name, if you take rugby football, we are right up there and that is thanks for people who shed their blood and sweat and tears in the past. We have to maintain that. Traditions have to be maintained. Whatever happens traditions must be maintained. We shouldn’t forget the people who have done so much for the school. Discipline is key, then the commitment, dedication.

Praseedh - What do you think of our new coloumn Inspiring Isipathanians with Praseedh?

Dilroy – It’s a very good initiative. This should be continued, and then only the students who are in school will look upto their old boys and aspire to be like them and to be interviewed like this. But the professionalism should be maintained. These sorts of activities cannot be continued on volunteer basis. Then it will not sustain. I wish all the very best and thank you very much for identifying me as an Inspiring Isipathanian.

Our Special Thanks To >> Mr . Dilroy Fernando From The Team ICOIC

Ramesh Rushantha Silva

( Spain )

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