Why Sri Lanka players are wearing black armbands in Cricket World Cup match against India

The Sri Lanka team wore black armbands against India  (AFP via Getty Images)
The Sri Lanka team wore black armbands against India (AFP via Getty Images)

The Sri Lanka team wore black armbands during their Cricket World Cup match against India as a tribute to Percy Abeysekera, their legendary ‘super fan’, who passed away a few days ago.

Abeysekera, fondly known as ‘Uncle Percy’, passed away after a prolonged battle with illness at the age of 87. He was an integral part of cricket in Sri Lanka and played a vital role from the stands to motivate the Sri Lankan players for nearly three decades.

“Sri Lanka players will wear black armbands during today’s game vs India to pay tribute to the late Percy Abeysekera, the legendary cheerleader,” Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said in an official statement posted on Twitter/X.

“Abeysekera was an integral part of the game of cricket in Sri Lanka and did play a pivotal role from beyond the boundary line to support and motivate the players. His towering legacy spans across Sri Lanka’s pre- and post-Test eras, and his name will remain etched forever among cricket lovers.”

The legendary fan, who was synonymous with the golden generation of Sri Lanka, supposedly attended nearly all Sri Lanka matches from the World Cup in 1979 onwards. But he genuinely came into the limelight only after the 1996 edition of the tournament, which his country co-hosted.

Abeysekera was also said to be good friends with several top international cricketers. He was famous for waving a large Sri Lankan flag during the games, patting the players on their backs and even being spotted accompanying them to and from the dressing room on many occasions.

Ahead of India’s World Cup 2023 meeting with Sri Lanka in Mumbai, captain Rohit Sharma recalled Abeysekera during the recent Asia Cup when he visited the latter’s house in Colombo.

“I was lucky to get an opportunity to meet him in Sri Lanka during the Asia Cup and he’s been such a great fan of cricket. Of course, (of the) Sri Lankan team but he’s probably the first ever fan that I met, who was so genuine and the support from his side towards his team, towards the players was fantastic to see,” Sharma said.

The Indian captain first toured Sri Lanka during the Under-19 World Cup in 2016. But Sharma noticed Uncle Percy only two years later when he returned to Sri Lanka with the Indian senior side.

“When I first went to Sri Lanka in 2006, actually for (the) U19 World Cup, he was there, but I was a little boy, I had no idea about how things work outside (the) cricket field. I was not too much into that,” said Sharma.

“But when I went with the Indian team for the first time in 2008, I saw him for the first time, and I saw how passionate he was. I got lucky as well to meet his family, his son, his grandson...their family is very sweet, I went with (a) few of my team members as well.”