Chennai, Sept. 2: A political leader has refused to let a sports team from a neighbouring country play in the leader’s state — but the state is not Maharashtra, nor does the name of the leader’s party end in “Sena”.
Chief minister Jayalalithaa today ordered a Sri Lankan college soccer team out of Tamil Nadu, where it had arrived to play friendly matches. She also ordered the suspension of a stadium official, M. Thomas, for allowing the Royal College of Colombo team to play a practice game on Friday with Chennai Customs.
“Not only did the stadium officer lack the authority to permit the use of the Nehru Stadium, but he has also insulted the feelings of Tamils in the state since the entire state has rallied against the Sri Lankan government for its atrocities against Lankan Tamils,” Jayalalithaa said in a statement.
The players were being put on tonight’s and tomorrow morning’s Colombo flights from Chennai, sources said late this evening. Police sources said they were questioning Jayabal Fernando, a football referee and Reserve Bank official in Chennai, who had invited the Lankan team and arranged Friday’s match, their first.
Jayalalithaa said that another Lankan soccer team, from Hilburn International School in Rathnapura, which had come to play in a tournament organised by the Velammaal Higher Secondary School in Chennai, too had been asked to leave the state immediately.
She said it was shameful that New Delhi had allowed the Lankan teams to enter India to play matches at a time her government was consistently opposing the training of Lankan military personnel in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
Jayalalithaa’s move is aimed at proving herself more anti-Colombo and pro-Lankan Tamil than her opponent DMK, which has been trying to prove its credentials by organising a conference in support of Lankan Tamils.
Thomas’s mobile was switched off. He had allowed the match apparently on a verbal request from Fernando, the RBI sports official.
Jayalalithaa has directed the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), which manages the stadium, to take departmental action against Thomas.
“There are clear instructions that any match played at any of Chennai’s model stadiums involving any foreign team needs to be cleared in writing by the SDAT,” said M. Vijayakumar, member-secretary, SDAT.