If someone asks me to nominate the most “exemplary sports personality” Kingswood has produced in the past decade and a half, Fazil Marija’s name would be almost an automatic choice. Today, most boys involved in sports at Kingswood, can learn much by simply watching Fazil Marija play; they can learn a whole lot more by watching Fazil marija walk on a pavement. Today, in the age of selfies – where everyone is a photographer and supermodel – we see many ordinary sports teams and sports team members being pumped with hot air with qualities they simply don’t have.
Fazil Marija is arguably the most outstanding back division player of our generation. Had Marija been born to a different decade, or attended a Colombo school, his fate would have been very different. Had Sri Lankan rugby not been the soft toy of the Rajapakshes since 2009 – and had it not become the politicized waste bin it has today become – Fazil Marija’s true potential would have been properly used for the betterment of Lankan rugby. Now, at 29, only time and fitness can tell us how far this elegant Fly Half can go – but, my feeling is that the years in which he was “neglected” or “deselected” by the stooges who run the game was a waste that cannot be pardoned in any way.
If someone asks me to nominate the most “exemplary sports personality” Kingswood has produced in the past decade and a half, Fazil Marija’s name would be almost an automatic choice. In rugby alone, there are a few formidable names spread across the late 90s and the 2000s, but, my feeling is that Marija surpasses most of them in a rare combination of talent, sportsmanship and humbleness. Kingswood’s rugby history, between the late 90s and today, can boast of massive names such as Jeewa Galgamuwa, Amjad Buksh, Chamara Withanage, Nilfer Ibrahim, Achala Perera and Gayan and Roshan Weeraratne. Harshana Wijeweera – who for a number of years represented Police SC – was another formidable player in the late 90s. Nalaka Weerakkody, who excelled in the mid to late 1990s, is perhaps, the best kicker to represent Kingswood, Kandy SC and Sri Lanka in recent years.
But, in Fazil Marija, there was always a defining quality which ranked him a step above many of the others, from his schooling days on. This quality had to do with his gentle and quiet way of getting about his business and his ability to “unswitch” himself from being a “rugby star” the moment he left the stadium. Fazil never tried scintillating breaks or tactical punts outside the line. In fact, though earmarked as a tremendous prospect from his young years, Fazil was still one of the most soft and rarely spoken, silent blokes in the school, who didn’t walk any swagger, unlike many who sat on the bench very often did. The true sportsman is defined by how he holds himself both inside and outside the game. Fazil Marija had greatness carved out all the way along. Fazil’s most outstanding years with Kingswood came in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In fact, he was groomed right in the midst of a legendary revival of Kingswood rugby: a renaissance that saw Kingswood ride high between the years 2000 and 2006. Although Kingswood managed a League title in 2008 under Gayan Rathnage, by then, the Kingswoodian star – already drunk with blindness and vanity – was on the wane.
Today, most boys involved in sports at Kingswood, can learn much by simply watching Fazil Marija play; they can learn a whole lot more by watching Fazil marija walk on a pavement. Today, in the age of selfies – where everyone is a photographer and supermodel – we see many ordinary sports teams and sports team members being pumped with hot air with qualities they simply don’t have. How some boys thump their chests and make much out of nothing is laughable, given the fact that many of them can’t even come close to a champion (in talent and discipline) such as Fazil. There are fellows who share on Facebook the day-by-day schedule they follow in the fitness center. Others post photos doing push ups, half squats, monkey-bars or other muscle-enhancing drills, accompanied by captions of bravado which the rest of the world finds funny.
There are schools that put a gaudy flex in front of their gate, even when a sports team wins a District title. For example, St. Joseph’s Balika College Nugegoda has a ludicrous front gate, which looks like a advertising billboard of “minor stars” and “minor achievements”. Between Kingswood and St. Joseph’s Balika College, I agree, there is some distance (and not only in Kilometers); but, there are times when the banners Kingswood put moves one to tears, too. In fact, why put banners at all? Why put a banner in front of the school and parade your little achievements to the big wide world which is, anyway, not interested; or, is too busy to care? Are achievements by the school there to be paraded before society – and use it to “compete” with others – or, are these achievements there to be shared and appreciated by the school community? When did this “banner putting” culture come to Kingswood?
As to when Kingswoodians first started hanging flexes and printed fabric in their front fence is not known to me. But, I do not recall such a practice throughout the 1990s, when I was a junior student there under R.B Rambukwelle’s Principalship. One of my contemporaries at school, I remember, used to boast that it was they (some in my batch) who introduced “banners” to Kandy schools (and he sounded very proud of his landmark achievement, too). As to whether this is the fact I am not sure – since every batch feels they are unique in some way – but, in the 2000s Kingswood went malarial with all kinds of notices and banners along the front school fence. On days, Kingswood even looked like a funeral house of a minor VIP.
Coming back to Fazil Marija, throughout his career at Kingswood as well as for his club and country, his main concern has been the game. He is a superstar by merit of his abilities and temperament alone. He has not been distracted by the sequins and gold dust of stardom, nor by media flashes and fanfare. In fact, fellows such as Fazil have injected inspiration into hundreds of budding ruggerites – both at Kingswood and at a national level – and become role models of whom coaches and team managers speak about. I am not very sure as to whether Fazil has ever been sent to the bin, or been drawn a red card on, but I am sure such instances – if at all – are very few. The most familiar sight is where he would run over a try and calmly walk back to his mark, with restrained feeling, in order for the game to resume.