The prevailing volatile situation in Jaffna has put a dark cloud over the climax of the 2016 Kotmale U19 Schools Football Championship which is scheduled to be held in Durayappah Stadium, Jaffna.
The semi-finals, 3rd place and final are scheduled to held on 3rd and 5th November with reigning champs St.Henry’s College and Zahira College locking horns in a repeat of last year’s final while the other semi-final features St.Patrick’s College and St.Joseph Vaz College, Wennapuwa.
St.Henry’s College and St.Patrick’s College are both from Jaffna hence the organizing committee decided to take the final two stages to the North in a historical decision that brings a climax of a major Schools’ Tournament to Jaffna for the first time since the three decade long war ended in 2009.
However after last week’s killing of two University of Jaffna students by the Police, has sparked unrest in the North. The incident happened in the early hours of October 21st near a roadblock in Kulappidi Junction where the Police claims the students, who were on a motorbike, had not adhered to a stop sign which ultimately led to the Police shooting at the two students.
Shops and businesses were shut down in Jaffna on October 25th and the university students have also boycotted the lectures amidst the protests calling for justice.
In the aftermath of the shooting a few other incidents has also compounded the concerns with the stabbing of Intelligence Service officers with swords by unidentified motorcyclists, making the headlines just two days after the shooting. It is said that it was in retaliation of the shooting.
The situation has certainly disturbed the parents and coaching staff of St.Joseph Vaz College and Zahira College.
“The parents are calling me as to what’s happening and are not willing to send their child to Jaffna,” Head Coach of Zahira College Mohamed Roomy told exclusively with ThePapare.com.
“When an incident like this happens it won’t die down in a few days, especially in Jaffna. It’ll take at least a month. We are practicing according to plan but not in the right frame of mind,” he went on to say.
There are also grave concerns about the security provided at the stadium but also to the two teams that are travelling and their lodging.
“Organizers can say they will provide security but when an incident happens who will take the responsibility? Can that responsible party give life to the dead? I certainly think this final stage should be shifted to Colombo,” Head Coach of St.Joseph Vaz, Frank Costa shared his strong views with ThePapare.com.
“This is the perfect stage for the trouble makers to make a statement, at the match or doing harm to the travelling teams,” a fearful Costa added.
“There will be a lot of crowd at the venue and they’ll need a lot of security. I took a team last year to Jaffna for a U17 match. In that too there were around 3,000 spectators and the way they behaved I can’t even mention. It was disgusting. The referee had to stop the match 3-4 times,” Costa shared his memories from his last visit to Jaffna.
The Football Federation of Sri Lanka is also taking a close and keen interest in the prevailing situation and is confident the tournament will conclude smoothly.
“We will monitor the situation in Jaffna for the next two days and if it continues to be this bad we will take a final decision,” The Secretary General of FFSL, Balendra Anthony added to ThePapare.com.
“Anyhow, Senior D.I.G K.P.P. Pathirana, who is also one of our Vice-Presidents, has assured the maximum security for the tournament,” he added.
We, ThePapare.com certainly hope the prevailing situation in Jaffna would get better for the good quickly and the tournament will be able to have its grand finale in the right spirit.