It is the season of big matches once again. It’s a season of celebrating the history, tradition, and rivalry between schools that have been battling it out for supremacy of the Gentlemen’s game each year.
Cycle parades, trucking and all sorts of processions adorn the main roads of Colombo as the days draw closer.
Sri Lanka boasts of the second, longest running domestic cricket tournament in the form of the much hyped, much celebrated, Royal-Thomian encounter. The Battle of the Blues as it is popularly known is next to the England’s Eton-Harrow encounter which started in 1805.
However, even the Eton-Harrow encounter had to be halted during the World War 2, which was not the case with the Royal-Thomian matches.
Over the years, many schools have come into being part of the big-match culture of Sri Lanka. Several schools have developed a healthy rivalry over the years by having their own big match fixtures. Fixtures such as the ‘Battle of the Maroons (Ananda vs Nalanda), Battle of the Saints (St. Peter’s vs St. Joseph), Battle of the Hills (Kingswood vs Dharmaraja) and the Battle of the North (St. John’s vs. Central College) have become part of the big match culture over the years.
However, the worrying factor here is the emergence of a sub-culture of sorts in the form of gang mentality. Gang mentality is highly prevalent among students who are often part of small cliques.
Most of the time, you see this groups chatting away in several places near their tutorial or in some public places.
However, you never know when these cheerful camaraderie of youngsters would turn violent. That’s how fragile and unpredictable these cliques are.
This was what happened recently when students of three popular schools in Colombo clashed causing damage to property while injuring several others. Several of the students were arrested following the incident.
Students should be loyal to their alma-mater. But, the loyalty should not be shown through street fights. Creating chaos in the name of a school only brings disrepute to the institution, to the students, and to their families. That is a display of a lack of good breeding, inability to settle disputes amicably and aping the underworld culture of “have gun, will fight”.
The school-brawls that was mentioned above led to calls for the banning of big matches in the country, where the proponents have linked matches with alcohol, violence etc. They opine that big matches is the fountain from which emanates all that is bad warranting prohibition. While these calls could be considered absurd in the context of its popularity and following, one cannot brush away the fact that big matches, and the days running up to the event, serve as breeding grounds for violence between student factions.
Blaming big matches as causes for violence and tension is absurd. Sri Lanka has enough and more examples to show how grown-ups, including those in the corridors of power, have behaved before the eyes of the public.
Meanwhile, in yet another disturbing development, several international schools pulled out of the International Schools Athletic Championships (ISAC) due to an anonymous letter which warned of bomb attacks during the event.
What was worse is that the letter was allegedly signed by students of a leading international school.
On one side, the letter could have been a hoax or a prank. But look at the impact it has created. It had resulted in several schools pulling out of an event at the last minute. The money, the planning, and the effort put in for the event, all for vain.
If the letter was in fact sent by a group of students, then it is a matter to be concerned. The students may not have been serious about it, but the damage is irreversible But this is exactly why we need a level-headed and rational-thinking generation of youngsters to take control of the country.
Why do they need to fight to prove their loyalty to the schools? Are not there better ways to show your love and respect to the hallowed institutions?
Are these institutions failing in their duties to instill discipline, goodwill among students and enhance their social capacity to deal with ?
What about the parents. Parent affection is displayed by bringing the child to school and picking up, even painting or colour washing schools, pressurizing teachers to favour one’s children, carting the child day in and day out to tuition classes, but, sorely neglecting the counselling of one’s child, instilling in them the sense of fair play and respect for their own mates irrespective of school. These are some issues that elude most parents today.
No parent or teacher is in control over the students when they are between the gates of their schools and homes. The students themselves are responsible for their own actions. However, if these actions cause public nuisance, then they not only tarnish their own reputation, but also that of the school’s.
Published in the Nation on February 25, 2017