Dilroy Fernando is a name synonymous with rugby in Sri Lanka.

As a player and referee, Dilroy has proved his mettle and his fame has spread beyond Sri Lanka.

He can outdo many young players in terms of stamina and knowledge of the game, as his dedication to fitness and keeping himself updated has not wavered. He religiously devotes his mornings to a fitness routine, before attending to other commitments.

At the interview, his phone kept ringing non-stop, proving that he is a much sought after persona.

He spoke of his rugby academy ‘AGOAL’ which secured many coveted awards at the recently concluded Bangkok sevens.

“The academy was launched during the latter part of 2004, with 15-20 kids. The players were gradually exposed to the international arena through various rugby tournaments held in Bangkok. In 2009, the U-10 and U-11 teams did well. By 2010 and 2011, the players had acquired more experience and exposure, thereby elevating their performance, strength and style locally and internationally. At present, the academy has grown to be one with a reputation for producing some of the top contenders of the game.

Rugby shatters barriers

“We enroll anyone who is keen on learning, from all strata of society, as I firmly believe that sports per se should strive to break man-made barriers. Even children as young as three are taught the basic of the game; at times, the little ones would hold on to the ball and refuse to share or cry, but they outgrow those traits as the game itself is a tool in building character. They learn that it is not merely individual effort, but team work that ensures success.”

There are a few kids who come from low income families and their skill ensures unprecedented opportunities through scholarships offered by top schools.

Elaborating on the behemoth manner in which rugby plays in building positive, long lasting character traits; “At AGOAL, it’s not merely about training a child to play rugby, but creating a wholesome, dedicated and responsible individual. When we travel overseas on various tours, the senior players have to be responsible for each other, irrespective of the coaches and parents who are in charge. They are required to wake up early, respond to the wake-up call, report for their meals, practice sessions and other events on time. The children are granted a day for shopping and most of the seniors assist the younger and new players before purchasing their items. They gain an understanding that life in itself is about building each other up and not just selfish gain.

“We have also found that there is a significant dearth of referees in the isle, hence the opportunity has been granted for those interested in refereeing as well. In some countries, children as young as 15 or less are identified and coached for the gruelling task of refereeing matches. In retrospect, I got into refereeing at the age of 30 due to the lack of opportunity to learn it, but we have opened the doors for many youngsters to learn this skill. It was our senior boys who refereed the matches between the Al Ain Barbarians and our players (U-10, U-12, U-14 teams), during their recent tour to Sri Lanka.

Another skill being developed by our training is managerial skills, which could be acquired by the kids during overseas tours; how to manage your room mates, time etc. There have been instances when rebellious or backward teenagers have been given the responsibility of looking after their team–mates etc, which in turn has given them a feeling of self worth and changed their attitude for the better.

At the end of each tour, we have a social gathering and each team has to perform an item; be it a song, skit etc. Initially, our lads were quite nervous about performing on stage, but gradually they outgrew stage fright. The reason for encouraging them to get on stage and perform is due to the fact that rugby or sports is not merely about getting on the field and playing, but a wider and broader spectrum; we could see it as a means of overcoming our fears and insecurities and reaching our highest potential.

“We are grateful to the kids and parents who offer their magnanimous support, not merely to their own children, but to all players at the academy. The IRB qualified coaches at AGOAL themselves are dedicated to bringing out the best in each player.

“My vision is to see a high tech sports centre being established with the necessary infrastructure in order to provide budding sportsmen and sportswomen to reach their GOALS in the arena of sports,” said Dilroy.

‘The Island’ wishes him all success in his endeavours.

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About Rochelle Gunaratne

I believe that everyone has a story to tell and in turn, I love listening to those stories, attempting to paint a picture to my readers with my words. I may not be an artist or painter, but I believe words can create powerful images in ones mind and it is how we share our stories with others.
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