Its 2013, the boys from Maradana are readying themselves for the 2013 Singer Schools Rugby League Division 2 tournament – no big budget, fancy gym, two meals a day, pool, or even protein supplement after every training session. Just a bunch of passionate players, doing everything they can to earn a promotion and climb one step upwards in the so-competitive school’s rugby ladder. Big ‘W’s in the first five weeks to emerge as group champions. Continued the winning streak but ended their run in the season with two losses in the final round. Not the Division Champions, but they still celebrated – their hard work, blood, sweat and tears paid off. Zahira was promoted to the Division 1 Segment ‘C’. The dream of competing in the big league got stronger and stronger.
Its 2014, and things went up a notch. The luxuries got a little better, the food came, the gym had more equipment, the supplements turned-up and some enthusiastic fans came to cheer. But the boys, the boys were still the same – passionate, hungry for more and wanted the best for the school!
The season began…five wins on the trot… group champions, yet again no silverware, just the promotion, and for the boys that was enough.
The following year, 2015, was meant to be the year ‘Zahira’ made it back into the top tier and relive her glory days like in the 70’s and 80’s. And the first step towards achieving that goal was done and dusted. By this time, Zahira was tagged as the ‘Maradana Underdogs’, and boy, did they live up to it. The team backed up by an experienced coach, and a roaring crowd found themselves battling it out for the plate championship and also a rightful spot in the top 12. April 24th 2015, Zahira hosted D. S. Senanayake College at Maradana as their first hurdle. From the start till the end it was a see-saw battle, a physical, mental and intense game of rugby that kept everyone at the edge of their seats. And unfortunately for the ‘underdogs’ they had to stay ‘under’, as the Dons secured a win.
Fast-forward to the penultimate weekend of the 2015 schools season, Zahira had already lost their chances of becoming the Plate Champions, but still had the teeniest of possibilities of making it to the top 12; IF they got the better of the Double Blues who were clear cut favourites to win the game.
April 29th 2015, CR & FC was a packed house. Blue flags, green flags maroon flags and proud mothers and fathers, cheering their sons – chanting ‘Zam Zam Zacky’ on one side and ‘Z.A.H.I.R.A’ on the other. The favourites scored three quick tries and had a 15-point cushion, but they faulted by taking a breather for the next few minutes as Zahira closed in and went into half-time trailing by just 1 point. However, 80 minutes later, Wesley came out winners shattering the dreams of the Maradana pack, leaving them heart-broken and in pieces: in pieces, only because they felt they let the school down. Yet proud, because it was a spirited effort.
Hard work, patience and teamwork – those were the core principles of the 2016 team. With a lot of hope, commitment and investment put into building the team, the pressure was high for a positive result. Everybody knew it was special, because the boys were family and have played together since their junior years. Zahira, for the third straight year, Group Champs. Come the second round, the Zahirians had 4 crucial games to play. DS, Mahanama, Prince of Wales and Joes. The Ramzan Amith led troops lost just one game and to Joes (21 – 20) and emerged Plate Runners-up, finally earning their spot in the Singer Schools Rugby League Division 1 Segment ‘A’ tournament. Tears of joy streamed down hundreds of faces that day, as the Maradana lot celebrated an unforgettable victory.
2017 & ‘18 were fairly impressive years for the Zahirians as they managed to retain their position in the top tier on both seasons. The 2017 team won the very first ‘A’ Division game the school played after long 14 years, against Science college at Ratmalana. A remarkable achievement for any team. However, the 2019 team failed to maintain the success of the previous two teams and was unfortunately relegated back to the Segment ‘B’ after losing out 7 of the 9 games in the concluded league.
This caused an upset and created tension in the Zahira rugby fraternity. Everybody was sad, disappointed and looking for reasons to blame. But, truth be told, who could possibly be sadder than the players? Who could possibly be more disappointed than the players?
Zahira College has displayed a different style of scintillating rugby that shook other schools. I believe the boys could do the same even now. All they need is constant support, help and faith. Faith, not only when they’re winning, but even when they’re not. As a member of 4 different teams in 4 different years having played in two different tiers, the one thing I understood is that people come and people go, but if the team is in sync, nothing else matters.
So cheer up Zahira, the future is bright – let the boys believe, and surprise you… they just might.