The first leg of the inaugural Ceylon Provincial Tournament organized and conducted by Football Sri Lanka (FSL) for the Independence Trophy will kick off on February 25 and 26 (Friday and Saturday) in Galle and Jaffna respectively.
After successful completion of the seven stages of the competition, with the participation of eight teams from the respective provinces, Sabaragamuwa, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Provinces qualified for the semi-finals. The semis will be competed on a home and away basis and the first
leg will be played today at Public ground in Galle and tomorrow (26) at Duraiyappah Stadium in Jaffna.
The group leaders Sabaragamuwa with 17 points will lock horns against the team Southern- the fourth-placed team with 11 points in the curtain-raiser at Galle. Sabaragamuwa team coached by M.F. Rahuman played a key role in transforming them to a winning combination and did well to head the fray to retain the top slot. Consisting of a young but fairly inexperienced side with a single National player Mohamed Shifan in their ranks, they notched up five wins with two games ending in a draw. Their head coach Rahuman speaking to Daily News said that “The success story behind our team is mainly due to the unity and commitment of the players. The boys have jelled as a unit and given out their best to maintain the winning momentum. The team had a good preparation in the last few days with the support of the management who stood by us to support us in all our endeavours. We have drawn up some plans to execute against our rivals and hope with the current trend we could win this game and secure a berth in the final.”
On the other hand, Southern has won three games while drawing and losing two games each before they entered this stage of the competition. Even though they had a rather shaky start losing a few matches, they were able to get into rhythm midway through the league stage. Their coach Shirantha Kumara from Wennappuwa believes that his team is still capable of winning the game today. “We had a slow start losing a few games at the inception. The reason behind this was the boys were from different areas. It took some time to bond as a team with a short preparation time. But at present, we are playing some quality football. We execute our plan match by match based on our opponents. We are pretty confident of posting a win today.” Said Shirantha.
Meanwhile, in the second semi-final on Saturday in Jaffna, the Northern team will meet Eastern. The team Northern which remained second at the end of the league stage with 13 points collected off three wins and four drawn games showed lots of promise. They possess the best side of the tournament imbibed with several national players. M. Nitharshan remains as the highest
individual goal scorer of the tournament with six goals will no doubt continue his prime form to win this game amidst their home crowd. They are tipped to win the game over their rivals.
The team Eastern is the lower-ranked team out of the four but their head coach Mohamed Roomy has done a wonderful job to rejuvenate them to a winning combination. They managed to obtain 11 points with two wins while five games ended in a draw which was a commendable performance.
Nevertheless, Roomy is quite optimistic about firing in all cylinders to create an upset to move to the next stage of the competition. The second leg of the semi-finals is scheduled to be held on March 1 and 2 at South Eastern University Ground, Ampara, and Seevali Ground, Ratnapura while the grand finale will be on March 5 for which the venue will be notified later. The winning team of this tournament will carry away the prestigious Independence Cup and each player will receive Rs. 50,000 each while the runner-up team players will carry away Rs. 25,000 each.