Army, Navy to vie for FA Cup in Nawalapitiya
The much anticipated blue riband of local soccer the Holcim FA Cup final between the two services teams Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Navy will be played at the Jayatilleke Stadium in Nawalapitiya on Saturday.
This is the first time in the history of FA Cup a final is to be played in Nawalapitiya and a packed stadium is expected to witness some of the present and former national players in action.
The FA Cup has a long history from the very first year of Sri Lanka's Independence and one of the oldest clubs in the country Saunders SC was the inaugural winner. They have won the Cup on more than 30 occasions from 1948.
This year's final the Soldiers and the Sailors are both well balanced sides and it should be a close contest. It could even lead to a penalty shoot out if both teams' strikers fail to find the net.
Army beat Kurunegala Pelicans in the pre-quarters and New Youngs in the quarterfinals by identical scores of one goal to nil and in the semi-final they got the better of Renown 4-2 on penalties after the match ended in a one-all draw.
Navy entered the final by beating Kalutara Park 4 nil, Air Force one-nil and Ratnam one-nil. From the pre-quarters both teams' forwards missed several scoring chances and if they do not live upto expectations then the fans will be deprived of any enjoyment.
Led by national skipper Sanka Wijesiri the Army side has some talented soccerites namely, national player A. B. Warakagoda, former Sri Lanka player M. N. M. Issadeen, youngsters like Sudharshana Gunasinghe, Madhushan Silva, L. Jayatunge, former Army skippers Lasantha Kumara and Asanka Silva, goal keeper S. Bandara, Nirantha Perera and S. T. Thiruna.
On the other hand Navy is led by experienced and former national goal keeper Ajith Kumara. The sailors too have some of the best players in the island. Chrysteen Fernando, evergreen Jeewantha Dhammika Ratnayaka, Kanagarajah Sudharshan, Sanjaya Silva, Chathuranga Sanjeewa, Malik Migara, Sameera Chryshantha, Thilanka Nandasiri and L. A. Prasad Laksitha are all capable of playing at any position and one can expect the sailors to give a torrid time to the soldiers.
This will be the third time the Sri Lanka Army will be aiming to win the Cup. The first time they won the prestigious FA Cup was way back in the sixties.
The sailors won the Cup for the first time a couple of years back and this time they are confident of taking it back to Welisara.
The winners will receive the Holcim FA Cup and a cash prize of Rs. 700,000/- and gold medals while the runner-up will pocket Rs. 500,000/- and they too will receive silver medals.
Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage will be the chief guest and the Chairman of Holcim and FIFA Ex-Co member Manilal Fernando and CEO of Holcim, Stefan Huber will be the guests of honour.
- By Tony Mike