…And it was 35 years ago.
As an early teen, I was so enthusiastic about extra-curricular activities at school, thus, every season, I participated at practice sessions of more than 20 different sports. I neither wanted nor I had the talent to be a sporting star, so that I never represented even the school team in any of those games. I was so happy and proud of practicing alongside the big names.
My parents never bothered about what I stayed after school for. They knew that I was involved with one thing or the other in the right spirit. My mother’s only condition was that I never go even close to the college swimming pool. Few idiots have convinced her that as I have two vortices (සුළි දෙකක්) in my hair, I will have a high possibility of facing a tragic accident in water.
We have never seen a parent in the peripherals of the ground, courts or ring, watching how their kids play. The only time that I remember a parent stepping across these boundaries was when a mother of a fellow mate (was it Kishan George?) brought a big cake into the basketball court for us to share as it was his birthday.
…And 25 years later.....,
I used to go to the same school, once in a while, on Saturdays, to pick my sons after their scouting sessions.
The scouting room is located at a corner of the junior-school ground. About 10-15 kids were usually seen practicing cricket in the ground. And double the number of parents were sitting on the short concrete seating area beyond the boundary line, in small clusters.
For every shot that reached the boundary, every ball that hit the wicket or every catch that is taken, a certain cluster of parents were cheering and clapping. Those kids were not even playing a practice match. They were just practicing.
Among these parents, several were those mates who played together with me during those good old days. Chatting casually with them I understood that many of these guys, who were once very close buddies, are no longer even looking at each other. Their wives were even more aggressive. Everyone has a story to tell.
“He used to offer many gifts as a bribe to the coach so that his son was selected to open the batting last season although the kid is the lousiest batsman in the squad”.
“That bitch is too close to the master-in-charge (then a wry grin), so that her son is always selected as the leg-spinner of the team ahead of our kid who turns the ball like Abdul Qadir”.
“All my friends say that our son will be the next Chaminda Vaas, so that all those stupid parents are so jealous that they poison the coach”.
Arrogance, frustration, vengeance, shrewdness, stupidity, self-inflation……. Their voices are filled with all sorts of emotions.
Not only cricket, whatever the sport you name, the issue is there. Not only in one school; from Royal to Dembaraweva Central College, the situation is the same.
Parents poke their nose, fingers, and everything possible into the kids’ affairs and spoil the whole picture. Master-in-charge, coach, school heads and even the principal are in utter stress.
Willingly or unwillingly they have to bow their heads to the influential parents. Once they do that they are pampered with many perks…... bribes that come in various forms.
If they try to swim against the tide, their lives become extremely uncomfortable. The first bullet comes from the almighty “old boys union”. The next one may be from a minister, the prime minister or even the president; else from a notorious underground kingpin. Thus, the vast majority will opt for the safer path; select the sons of the most influential.
Gradually, the talents were diminished and faded away. Parents with perseverance had to look for alternative paths for their children, if they have enough money. Thus, the affordable lot started playing for clubs and emerged into the national levels much latter.
A couple of decades ago most of our sporting heroes were born in the school arena, thus they had many years of sporting career.