Hundreds of people go missing every day, but have you heard of an entire sports team mysteriously vanishing? The Sri Lankan handball team disappeared in 2004 and left a huge mystery for fans to follow. What happened to the players that day?
The Asian-German Sports Exchange Program (AGSEP) operates in Sri Lanka, with a partner office in Germany. It has organized numerous matches between sports teams from both Sri Lanka and Europe. But in 2004, it occupied itself primarily with a handball tournament between Sri Lankan and German teams which became famous for all the wrong reason.
The Sri Lankan team was issued visas which allowed them to stay in Germany for a month. When they arrived and took part in the tournament, not much seemed suspicious about them. Sri Lankan team came to Germany and mysteriously vanished soon after they arrived. People continue to try to figure out what happened to the Sri Lankans.
The unexplained disappearance
The Sri Lankan team began their tour. They had a game against TSV Wittislingen and things seemed to be going according to plan. But after they had just arrived, they couldn’t be found the next morning. The Bavarian hosts quickly grew alarmed, wondering where their guests had wandered off to.
The Germans originally believed that the Sri Lankan team had gotten lost while jogging in the woods. However, a visit to the Lankans’ lodgings revealed a much deeper mystery.
The team is gone but left behind them some sports kits and sweaty tees. They also left a farewell letter to their hosts; in this letter they say thank you for your hospitality and informs them of their destination: France.
What investigators found out about the Sri Lankan national handball team?
The Sri Lankan national team’s disappearance left the German authorities stumped. They soon launched an investigation, hoping to get to the bottom of this mystery. As their investigations unfolded and progressed, everything began to make sense.
The Sri Lankan players were so unskilled that the German handball team wondered how they could have been considered the best in their country. The Sri Lankans were poor at playing and catching the ball, leading to their complete loss every game. They were still set to tour seven communities before disappearing.
After the German authorities investigated, they found that the Sri Lankan team might have left Germany. They went to Munich’s central railway station and got on a train. According to the police officer, the letter might be a false lead meant to throw them off from tracking down the team.
Sri Lanka’s national handball team: who are they?
The Sri Lankan team were not who they seemed to be since they didn’t seem to know the game, nor did the government. For years there has been a question of legitimacy to the Sri Lankan national handball team. It was also not a popular sport in Sri Lanka, so it did not have a federation body.
Many theories have been put forth to answer the question of who these 24 people were. Among these, one is widely accepted as a group of people looking for refuge and safety in Italy.
According to some official reports, at the time, Italy had become a home for many Sri Lankan refugees. In Italy these refugees managed to build strong communities for themselves. As a result, it is not unlikely that the Sri Lankan players migrated to Italy. The AGSEP’s communication with one family states that the player contacted them from Italy, then said he had a job there.
The search for the Sri Lankan national handball
The alleged national team was charged with immigration violations. They had been travelling in Germany and then made false claims on their visa applications to enter the country.
However, this incident had negative effects on the AGSEP too. This was because the AGSEP was the one that organized the event and they said they felt let down. In response, they suspended their sports exchange program which had been successful before until then and would no longer invite any teams from Sri Lanka to participate.
Some people also appear sympathetic to the plight of the vanished players, with Bjoern Rupprecht, a German who coached the team in Sri Lanka for three months, saying they showed little discipline during practice. The coach explained that they would often turn up to training barefoot or in flip-flops, but he understood why they wanted to emigrate, noting that all players had been “nice guys” who simply wanted a better life for themselves.
With the Sri Lankan players disappeared, they made a mark for themselves in today’s world. Hopefully, after all the attention this case has garnered, it will one day be solved with all doubts.