Sports News

SLR’s attempt to oust SL Sevens’ Coach backfires

  • Political undercurrents in Commonwealth Games’ rugby coach appointment

By Marlon Dale Ferreira

Sri Lanka Rugby’s (SLR) attempt to replace the already selected national Sevens Coach Nilfer Ibrahim (also spelled as Nilufer Ibrahim) with former Kandy and Sri Lanka player and current Coach Fazil Marija for the upcoming Commonwealth Games backfired, when their request for approval made to the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) was rejected yesterday (23).

SLR, which called for an emergency council meeting on Sunday (22), had decided to have Ibrahim replaced with Marija, despite all the names of the players and officials for the Commonwealth Games having been registered with the NOCSL much earlier.

In spite of this, SLR had decided to send in their agreed decision to the NOCSL for final approval. The 22nd Commonwealth Games are set to be held from 28 July to 8 August in Birmingham, England.

NOCSL says ‘no’

NOCSL Secretary General Maxwell De Silva, responding to SLR’s request, had stated that it is not possible to include Fazil Marija, as his name was not mentioned in the proposed list of names, known as the long list, that had been registered many months earlier.

According to reliable sources within SLR, it could be confirmed that the SLR council’s decision to have Ibrahim replaced by Marija was because of the latter’s close association to the current selected squad, which is made up mainly of players from the Kandy Sports Club.

Marija has been associated with the Kandy team as a former player and Coach too.

Political victimisation

Ibrahim’s appointment as Coach for the Commonwealth Games had been made earlier, with him being officially informed by SLR via email.

However, a cross-section of rugby stakeholders were left miffed with this sudden SLR council decision to have Nilfer Ibrahim ousted. Some in the rugby fraternity viewed the decision as more of a case of political victimisation.

About Ranils and Rajapaksas

It is a widely known that Nilfer Ibrahim’s brother Ronnie Ibrahim is a close associate of former Minister of Sports Namal Rajapaksa, who temporarily suspended the current SLR Executive Committee through a Government Gazette Notification, which was issued a mere two days prior to Rajapaksa leaving his post last month.

On the other hand, it is also a widely known fact that Fazil Marija is a close associate of Kandy Sport Club’s so-called “godfather” Malik Samarawickrama, who is considered an extremely close associate of the current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

SLR AGM fixed for 27 August

SLR, on 13 May, had sought an interim relief through the Court of Appeal to suspend the gazette issued by Rajapaksa until 30 June 2022, whilst providing its President Rizly Illyas and his team to resume office once again.

At the concluded SLR council meeting this weekend, it was also decided to have the SLR Annual General Meeting and its elections on Saturday, 27 August 2022.