Monday, October 22, 2012



                                                              Sunday 21 October, 2012


Be Sporty, Sri Lanka

Hameed Abdul Karim

Desmond Samith’s article titled ‘A victory out of this world’ (LAKBIMAnews Sunday October 7, 2012) shouldn’t have surprised me or even hurt my feeling. But you know what? It did both.

I have heard this tattle for years. I mean the skit ‘Sri Lankan Muslims supporting Pakistan because of their cultural and religious ties’. So, in a sense, Samith was only following an old script, but it still hurt, because it projected Muslims as traitors in this hyper patriotic era that we are living in today thus exacerbating the divisions that exist in our society.

I was at the match. And I saw many Muslims supporting Sri Lanka. A Memon, who is the president elect of the Memon Association of Sri Lanka, was donning a ‘Sri Lanka’ T-Shirt along with three other Memons who might become his committee members. I wonder how Desmond Samith would know they were Muslims…or not Muslims. I spotted many Muslim families carrying the Sri Lanka flags and some of the children had Sri Lankan flag stickers stuck on cheeks. How would ‘true blooded Sinhala Buddhists’ react to these outpourings of ‘Muslims Patriotism? Would they think the Muslims ‘nariyas’ were patronising them in a show of pseudo patriotism? And indeed there is hint of that by Samith when he says ‘for the youth a Sri Lankan victory is a chance to put the message across, remind their Pakistani-Zindabad chanting neighbours, of their priorities’.

And I suppose their ‘priorities’ should be to support Sri Lanka when the play against Pakistan, never mind the attacks on mosques, churches or kovils often associated with forced closures. I have often argued, in cricket related issues, that the ‘true blooded’ Sinhalaya should turn the searchlight inwards and explore the reason why Muslims support Pakistan, as some do, and perhaps they might find a few revealing answers if the search is a genuine one.

At the matches I had the happy opportunity to meet with many foreigners who had come from all over the world to watch the tournament and root for their sides. Many were the Pakistanis, some of whom had come from the US, UK, UAE and Pakistan. There was this popular ‘Pakistani’ from Birmingham dressed as the ‘incredible hunk’ and I wonder if Desmond had mistakenly thought he was a Sri Lankan ‘thambiyah’ because his complexion was similar to the ‘Sinhalaya’ or the ‘demalaya’.

I met a few Australian citizens of Sri Lankan origin and they were carrying Sri Lankan flags. I am sure they would have gone crazy with joy if Sri Lanka had grabbed the coveted trophy. And guess what? They were seated with other Australians who were rooting for their country. Yet there was not a single hint of a conflict of patriotism or a sign of a clash. 

Compare this with the incident, a couple of years ago, when the PIA area manager in Colombo came in for a bit of a hassle at Galle because, being a cricket fanatic and a Pakistani (a combustible mix) he was naturally cheering for his side. But the Sri Lankans thought he was a ‘thambiyah’ because of his complexion. Naturally he was quite annoyed.

I have heard racial abuse being hurled at Uvais Karnain at the SSC when the ‘thambiyah’ was playing for Sri Lanka and that too after he singlehandedly helped Sri Lanka beat West Indies (was it?) at Moratuwa just a few days before that match. Mercifully racial abuse has stopped. There is a slab at the SSC that warns against racial abuse and that is a step in the right direction.

But annoying by other means still continues unabated. The jeering by hooting becomes irritating when an appeal by any foreign team against Sri Lanka is turned down by the umpire. Perhaps this is an expression of relief but I feel this must be checked. A perplexed Pakistani asked me (not during this tournament) why Sri Lankans reacted in this way and mockingly asked me if the ‘hooooo’ was our national anthem!

He went on to say Pakistan helps Sri Lanka in more ways than one and pointed out their outpouring of support for Sri Lanka during the world cup final at the jam-packed stadium in Lahore with Sri Lankan flags and all. He wanted to know why Sri Lankans waved the Lion flag in their faces after the country thumped Sri Lanka in the semi-final. Celebrations are quite in order, but rubbing salt into the wounds of the vanquished is quite another. Should we revel in the grief of others?

And you can get a sense of this ‘rubbing salt into the wounds’ thing when Desmond Samith says that when Sri Lanka’s victory was on the horizon, ‘white and green flags started disappearing under the seats. You could (sic) have seen the faces of the Pakistani supporters local and foreign- famous Uncle Sam, the white bearded man ……Heads fallen and tears in their eyes. Come on Sri Lanka….Come on Sri Lanka….’
Well what do you expect? Sure they were upset their side lost like all fans are when their sides lose. It’s only a natural response.

Did we Sri Lankans celebrate when the West Indies clobbered us in the final? And did the West Indians flash their flags in our faces? Grow up Sri Lanka! Be humble in victory (like our players are) offer condolences to the defeated side and do not rub salt into their wounds in a shameless display of ‘patriotism’. Be sporty, Sri Lanka! 

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