CH&FC-Standing tall as a sports hub

by Ravi Nagahawatte

Colombo Hockey & Football Club (CH&FC) has stood tall as a ‘family club’ in its pristine location at Maitland Crescent, in Colombo 7.

Its status as a place for entertainment, to socialize and engage in sport has always been at lofty heights. The club’s committee has time and again come up with innovative ideas to improve the facilities for its 1000 odd members. As a result, CH&FC-also known as Gymkhana club-affords its members the opportunity to socialize with an elite, but homely crowd, entertain themselves at the discotheque or at the karaoke, eat out at the Lebanese restaurant, taste ‘Kollu’’s specials at Lemon, hang around at the silk bar lounge, take a dip at the roof top pool or even attend to banking needs at the HSBC outlet at the club.

The club has undergone several changes which have come in the form of new structures like the indoor cricket nets, gymnasium and squash courts. But what’s inspiring is that the present administrators who run the affairs of the club are looking for ways of improvement. They are concerned about the little changes which need to be done to improve the overall picture of the club.

President CH&FC, Shane Dullewa said the Gymkhana Club was the best sports and social club in the country, but he wants that place cemented. "We always look for improvements and add new features with the view of giving the members a better service," said Dullewa who heads a dynamic committee.

Dullewa said the club experienced a bad patch a few years ago when a member took some office bearers in the committee to courts. He however, added that the allegations levelled against them were never proved and the defendants got a clean sheet by the court of law.

Dulewa believes in maintaining the club’s rich traditions. The top posts in the club were filled uncontested in the past. But there was time when a handful of individuals believed it was alright to go for a vote. The club had suffered a lot during this time according to Dullewa. However, those dark clouds have blown away and the club once again displays a kind of splendour which makes members think it’s their second a home.

This was not the case many years ago when the club was exclusively open only for the expatriate community in Sri Lanka. The club was established in 1863 and named Colombo Cricket Club. There were two other arms of the club at the time, CH&FC at Race Course (1892) and the Queen’s Club (1899), the latter where members were offered the opportunity to play tennis. The Queen’s Club is still a part of the club.

It was as late as 1965 when the club opened the doors for locals to represent CH&FC at sport. At present we can see that the club is used more by Sri Lankans than expatriates.

A sport that has helped the club to establish its identity is rugby. Dullewa spoke of the good old days when the club was a driving force in domestic and international rugby tournaments. "CH&FC rugby was at its best till about 1994 and then again in the year 2000. But our rugby has taken a nosedive and we are working hard to get right back on top," said Dullewa.

He related the drop in rugby at CH&FC to the sport going professional. "Now there is no club loyalty and allowances to players play a key role in deciding who plays for which club. It’s not that we haven’t paid our players well, but then, gone seem the days when players joined the club not only for rugby," said Dullewa.

The club’s ground was also a sought after venue for Test cricket. According to Dullewa. CCC boasts of being the world’s 57th Test venue and intends putting it on line again as a sought after Test venue.

Cricketers in the likes of Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya, Jehan Mubarak, Michael Van Dort, Athula Samarasekera and, before that, Roy Dias and Michael Tissera had represented the club at domestic cricket tournaments. "Even in cricket, the club could do better. We will come back in a big way in cricket," said Dullewa. He added that there were big plans for hockey as well.

According to Dullewa, the members of CH&FC hold reciprocal membership at Singapore Cricket Club, Malaysia Seylangor Club, Madras Gymkhana, Bombay Gymkhana and Kenyan Gymkhana Club. "At present we are just about to start a membership drive," said Dullewa.

The others serving Dullewa’s committee are Shiran Anthony (Vice Chairman), Commodore Russell Korkevan (Secretary) and Prasantha Wimalasena (Treasurer). "One requirement I put across to all in our committee was for everybody to give 200%," said Dullewa who added, "this is the best club in town, but we want to make it better."

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