Published: 26 November 2012
For avid fans of college level sports in Sri Lanka, leaving the country comes at a steep price – for starters, it means missing the Big Match. Or so Anisha Yasarathne and Nuwina Padukkavidana decided, when they ended up away from Sri Lanka during cricket season.
For them and for many others, it’s the quintessential Sri Lankan experience - the event of the year. It’s about knowing your players, rooting for your team and watching them as they score. It’s the papare music and the all-out party in the stands.
Anisha and Nuwina decided to try to recreate that experience with thepapare.com, a site that offers commentary, live broadcasts of matches, columns and features on teams and individual players and most importantly papare music. There’s never been anything quite like it for school and club level sports in the country. In fact, the new website is so good that it is, quite literally, bringing tears to the eyes of long time fans.
“Some people hadn’t seen a Big Match in 20 or 30 years,” says Esala De Livera Tennekoon a writer for the website, adding that they’ve had reports of grown men breaking down and weeping over their live broadcasts of the matches. Having launched the site early this year, the site already boasts nearly a million hits, with approximately 5,000 visitors during peak Rugger season. Most popular have been the live video feed of the Royal Thomian, Joe Pete and Ananda Nalanda Big Matches, complemented by extensive coverage of the 8 weeks long rugby season. Sports fans also seem to appreciate the site’s forum, and comments sometimes going upto hundreds, with people heatedly debating the issues of the day.
Despite the impressive numbers, resources have been scarce. The guys have made offices out of their homes, turned allowances into work budgets, and put their own video and still cameras at the group’s disposal. In fact, the only thing they haven’t been short on is innovation. Within months they’ve expanded their offerings from bare columns to extensive pre-match commentary, and won themselves thousands of fans from all over the world.
“That we were all serious sportsmen is our greatest strength,” says Esala, adding that “it’s basically our contacts that keep us alive.” Like every other member of the team, Esala has an impressive resume – with Colours in two sports, he was voted the best ruggerite in 2007. He has broken a long-standing Thomian relay record and has even played some cricket.
The credentials of the others are no less dazzling. Hafeel Farisz was a member of Royal College 1st XV team in 2006 and represented the College 2nd XI Cricket team from 2005 to 2007. He’s proved his mettle as a writer as well, which is why he served as editor for the website for awhile. These days he’s passed the torch onto Sankha de Livera Tennekoon, twin brother to Esala and another guy with an impressive resume. After two years of playing Fly-half for S. Thomas College, he was also awarded colours in 2007. He also played Cricket for STC and was given Athletic colours in the year 2007.
Other writers include, Feroze Ahamed (Royal College 1st XI), Sukitha Senaratne (played for both Royal College and CCC with distinction), Milinda Gunawardene (former Trinity College Ruggerite and skipper of the 1st XV of 2008), Yasas Ratnayake (Vice Captain of the Royal Under 17 rugby team) and Varun Wijewardane (has played for both the Royal College 1st XV rugby and 1st XI cricket teams.)
Aside from being excellent sportsmen, they also have their youth in common. The founders of the team are 24-years-old and it just gets younger from then on. “Most of the guys are just three years or so out of school,” says Hafeel, explaining that the team members belong to many different schools. “We’re very particular about who we recruit. They have to have made a name for themselves,” he says. In the end, who makes the cut is a group decision. It’s an approach that keeps things running smoothly.
Though it may be short on funding, the site has never been short on fans. In fact, the site’s technical consultant, Padmakantha Nagasena lends his expertise to them for free, simply because he appreciates what they’re trying to achieve. The team meets every Wednesday and with Sankha coordinating, puts together a to-do list for the week. Actually getting the stuff out involves navigating a morass of red tape and digging deep into their own pockets for daily expenses. But the reward is in seeing the site gaining momentum. “It’s not even a year since we launched it, and we’ve already had 700,000 page views. Maybe next year it will be double,” says Sankha. Asked what keeps them devoted to decidedly underpaid jobs? He says simply, “We see the potential in it.”
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