LIFE ABROAD – Part 36: FOC CELEBRATES SILVER JUBILEE IN UK
Posted on July 24th, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

On July 28, 2013 FOC (Festival of Cricket) will be celebrating its Silver Jubilee from Merchant Taylor School Grounds, Norwood, Herts, with 28 Old boys Associations participating in a seven a side cricket tournament.

For the past 25 years this special festival, which is regarded as the most important and popular event in Sri Lankan expatriates’ calendar, has been organised annually with the assistance and cooperation of volunteer committees of each OBA (Old Boys Associations) working together in perfect harmony to make the event an immense success.

Kick start

Although the Festival focuses mainly on cricket, it also has managed to raise funds with the help of a charity arm (children’s charity) where Maharagama Cancer Institute and the Cancer Research in the UK have been the benefactors out of the generosity of Sri Lankan expatriates in the UK.

On May 9, 1989 even sky lords blessed the inaugural occasion of the festival with ample sunshine at Maori Club at Worcester Park, Surrey when thousands of Sri Lankans living in the UK participated to enjoy a day of cricket as much as to relax in a carnival atmosphere to renew old comradeships and to cultivate new contacts in a typical social intercourse atmosphere.

Progress

Initially old boys from Ananda, Royal, St. Thomas, St. Peter’s, Trinity and St. Anthony’s formed their individual alma mater associations to place a concrete foundation for the establishment of what was known as the OBA (Old Boys Association) in the UK.

Family atmosphere. Picture by Nimal Ravaratne

Seemingly through a democratic agenda the concept was introduced to a few other Sri Lankan alma mater associations in the UK. 25 years ago, Anandians managed to grab the first ever “ƒ”¹…”OBA’ Challenge Cup after a hard fought fight among the six teams which participated in the tournament.

Wisdom

In 1990 the “ƒ”¹…”Cricket Festival’ changed its name to The Festival of Cricket with a full membership and a formal constitution. In 1991 a cricket match was organised with the Sri Lankan national team, for the first time, during their England tour on a Test Match. Subsequently, in 1994, a seven-a-side match comprising Lankan National players vs a team of international test players took place during the festival.

In 1995 the venue changed from Maori Club to Norman Park in Bromley, Kent. In 2002 the FOC committee decided to relocate the event to a picturesque venue at Shenley in Hertfordshire but that decision too had to be changed due to inadequate space at Shenley grounds as the number of participating OBAs as much as the demand for additional trade stalls grew.

Finally the festival moved to two spacious venues in Cheswick at Civil Service Grounds and Winchmore Hill Cricket club in Middlesex respectively.

At a time when the meaning of the two words “ƒ”¹…”peace’ and “ƒ”¹…”harmony’ had begun to depreciate among the Sri Lankan communities, both at home and in the UK (during the terrorist predicament), the subtle motive of establishing the FOC to bring about harmony and revitalise the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the UK by affording compatriots the opportunity of forgetting about various social parasitic view points on ethnicity, caste, religion, and certain pseudo egoism which had been ingeniously ingrained in some alma mater groups seemed to have worked out over the past 25 years which is indicative from the increase in contestants and spectators that have recorded an average of 5,000 viewers annually.

During the game of cricket on this festival day, it bolsters a number of other activities held around the grounds to keep the captive audience/visitors entertained and occupied. These activities include music, children’s fun fare, a Sri Lankan bazaar, excellent international cuisine from numerous food stalls, “ƒ”¹…”beer tent’ and trade stalls representing many business houses including that of airlines, freight, insurance, telephone companies and Sri Lankan banks which turn the event into a comprehensive open day for Sri Lanka.

An exclusive Hospitality Marquee caters for the elite and entrepreneurs who can afford to entertain their business clientele and British friends while watching cricket in a relaxing atmosphere. For Western visitors Sri Lankan culture and sampling of mouth watering Sri Lankan gastronomy become a far-reaching tourist promotion for Sri Lanka.

All proceeds of the events are divided among the participating schools to purchase educational materials, equipment or to set up Scholarship Funds in Sri Lanka with Children’s charity wing that always makes a substantial donation to the National Cancer Institute of Sri Lanka and the UK cancer Research.

Over the years Sri Lankan ƒÆ’†’©migrƒÆ’†’© have been extremely compassionate and humane to contribute generously to the charity division of the FOC, which enabled the FOC management to donate (among the list of many items) a Blood Scanner at a cost of £10,000, (Rs. 1,980,000 at current rate of foreign exchange) to the National Cancer Institute at Maharagama, an Electrically Operated “ƒ”¹…”Farmer Dosimeter’ to Welisara Chest Hospital at a cost of £1,000 ( Rs.198,000) to meet their diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to inspect the airways of the lungs.

To create something new involves effort, endurance while facing challenges and frustrations equally to be able to uphold the very basic principles of any organisation with a collective responsibility and mutual respect for each other.

In this regard a sturdy foundation at the very outset has enabled the FOC organisers to come out with a feasible constitution which naturally has served as a vehicle for its onward journey along twenty five long years.

Today the FOC is able to demonstrate to the world at large their efforts throughout as a winning formula by celebrating its Silver Jubilee.

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– See more at: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/foc-celebrates-silver-jubilee-uk#sthash.k9mbXx9V.dpuf

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