The Mercantile Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) which promoted athletics for over a decade in the mercantile sector became inactive in 1976. They failed to hold their Annual General Meetings and athletics meets for nearly five years. The Amateur Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (AAASL) after holding an inquiry observed that the MAAA was not properly constituted according to their own constitution and declared the MAAA as defunct at the General Committee Meeting held on 17th August 1979. Thus the Mercantile sector was deprived of Athletic activity in 1979 without a constituted body. It was at this juncture that four dedicated sportsmen in the mercantile sector namely messers D. K. Supramaniam, Shanti McClelland, C. Selvarathnam and K. Satchithananda sat together and decided to form a new mercantile athletic body under a different name for the benefit of the mercantile sector athletes.
The “Mercantile Athletic Federation” (M.A.F) notices were published in all the newspapers calling all interested mercantile firms for a meeting to form a body to promote athletics in the mercantile sector on 7th September 1982 at the Ceylon Tours office on Parsons Road, Colombo 02. The response was very encouraging and about 30 firms sent their representatives for this Meeting. The representatives endorsed the view of the conveners to form a new body under the name “Mercantile Athletic Federation”. It was also decided to hold an inaugural Annual General Meeting to elect Office-Bearers on 21st September 1982 and to conduct an athletic championship on 6th November 1982. The inaugural Annual General Meeting was represented by 42 firms and the following office-bearers were elected; President- Mr. D.K. Supramaniam, Secretary- Mr. K. Satchithananda, Treasurer- Mr. Shanti McClelland, Vice President- Mr. C. Selvarathnam, Ms. Charmaine De Alwis, Mr. Bernard Perera, Mr. Douglas Goonarathna and Mr. Ranjith Weerasena – Asst. Secretary, Mr. Nihal Fernando – Athletics Secretary, Mr. Gamini Weerasinghe – Social Secretary, Mr. Tudor Pieris and the Auditors- M/s Carter & De Costa.
The first Athletics Championships organised by the M.A.F was held on the 6th and 7th of November 1982 at Shalika Grounds (CTB) where over 600 athletes both men and women from 50 firms participated. Several noteworthy performances were recorded at this meet. Thereafter the annual championships continued to be held every year and the number of firms and participants increased gradually over the next few years.
The M.A.F was also the first to introduce veteran (masters) athletics in Sri Lanka in 1985. The M.A.F accepted an invitation from the Asian Veteran Athletics Association for the 3rd Asian Meet to be held in Singapore. The M.A.F conducted a trial meet for veterans at the Sports Ministry Grounds, and selected 22 veterans for the above meet. The team did well to win 13 Gold, 15 Silver and 12 Bronze medals and was placed 3rd in the medal tally from 11 countries. Following this success, the M.A.F assisted veteran athletes and processed teams for 4th Asian Veterans Meet held in Indonesia in 1986, 6th World Veterans Games held in Rome in 1985, first Masters Games held in Canada in 1985, the All Japan Masters International and the Swiss Masters Games. It must be mentioned that the MAF paved the way for the formation of the Sri Lanka Veterans (Masters) Athletic Association. The M.A.F also ventured into another sport for women – netball. The M.A.F conducted inter league and knock-out tournaments from 1984 to 1990. Over 50 teams from top mercantile firms participated in each tournament over that period.
The M.A.F thereafter suffered two setbacks – President, Mr. K.D. Supramaniam migrated to Australia in 1991 and Treasurer, Mr. Shanti McClelland migrated to Canada in 1992. The MAF continued the good work with the dedicated Secretary, Mr. K. Satchithananda and Mr. Ranjith Weerasena as President. The M.A.F also went through a lean period and did not conduct athletics meets for 3 years. However, thanks to the then President of the AAASL, Mr. Sunil Jayaweera who revived athletic activity with a road race and athletic championships in 1994 for the mercantile sector. Mr. Ranjith Dissanayake took over as president in 1996 and continued till 1999. The M.A.F. conducted athletic meets every two years from 1996 with new firms joining the M.A.F. In the year 2000 Mr. Ashley De Abrew took over as president and thereafter the athletic meets have been held regularly each year with veterans (masters) events for both men and women along with championship and novices events. Mr. Ashley De Abrew during his term did yeomen service to the M.A.F finding regular sponsors for the M.A.F events each year.
The 25th Anniversary Mercantile Athletic Championships was held on the 8th and 9th November, 2008 at the Sugathadasa Stadium which attracted over 1,000 athletes from 35 mercantile firms. The President of the AASL Major General Palitha Fernando graced the occasion as chief guest. We are thankful to M/s Janet Cosmetics (Pvt) ltd. who sponsored these championships.
The M.A.F grew from strength to strength and conducted its athletics championships annually with the continuous support of sponsors such as Mr. Nandana Wickremage – Group Director, Ceylon Biscuits Ltd, and Ms. D. G.V. Ratnayake, Deputy Chief Corporate Officer, Sri Lanka Telecom who have sponsored our annual championships from the year 2009 to date.
If we look back athletics in the mercantile sector has been nursed by the M.A.F from the year 1982 to date which has produced several Sri Lanka National Athletics Records.
The M.A.F also embarked in masters’ athletics championships abroad and participated in the 16th Thai Masters Athletic Championships held in Thailand from 11th to 13th March, 2011. 17 masters’ athletes participated from 6 member mercantile firms, and won several Gold, Silver and Bronze medals bringing credit to the M.A.F and Sri Lanka.
It is the future goal that the M.A.F send deserving and talented athletes to participate in open competitions overseas representing the MAF and Sri Lanka.
The Annual General Meeting held in November 2011 saw a change in the office bearers after many years. Mr. Gihan Kandulawa of MAS Intimates took over the Presidency from Mr. P.H.D. Waidyatileke and Mr. Tornado Jayasundera of John Keells took over the post of Secretary from Mr. K. Satchithananda who was elected as Senior Vice President. Mr. Gehan Dias, Mr T.J. Chandradasa, Mr. S.P. Rupasinghe, Mr. S.B. Ratnayaka, Ms. Hema Wanniarachi, Mr. Roshan Samarasinghe and Mr K.A. Prasanna Indika were elected as Vice Presidents. Mr. Basil Silva Treasurer, Mr. K. Sundararajan Assistant Treasurer, Ms. Hema Withanawasam Assistant Secretary and Ms. Nilanthi Gamalakshage as Meet Secretary.
It is with a sense of satisfaction that we wish to place on record that the M.A.F has fulfilled its obligation of promoting athletics, netball and veteran (masters) athletics in the mercantile sector for the past 28 years. We take this opportunity to thank all our affiliated member firms’ sportsmen and sportswomen in the mercantile sector for extending their stupendous co-operation at all times.
We wish the M.A.F successful and continued to service to the mercantile sector in the years to come.
THE M.A.F WEBSITE
With the election of new office bearers at the AGM in 2011, the committee consisting of many new young faces, embarked upon many new plans and projects to be implemented by the M.A.F for the benefit of the athletes in the mercantile sector. As part of this endeavour the team led by able President Mr. Gihan Kandulawa, appointed a sub-committee consisting of Vice Presidents Mr. Gehan Dias and Mr. Roshan Samarasinghe to set up a website in keeping with the demands for ease of access and use of modern technology to interact and keep in touch with its affiliated members.
After requesting for proposals at the beginning of 2012 from a number of firms, 3 shortlisted candidates were requested to make formal presentations to the general committee in May 2012. The committee then selected Spinx Designs to partner with the M.A.F’s to design and maintain its website.