Changes for the better — need of the hour

By Subhani Hassimdeen-former national Football Captain and national coach

In the history of Sri Lanka football there has been many instances of mal-practices ranging from fraud, deceit to deception and abusing of powers. Blatant irregularities have been high-lighted, willful and deliberate acts of omission and host of preposterous and horrendous acts of mischief have been committed, while correspondingly penalties have been few if not nil.

Until we are prepared literally to hang the offenders hot and high, serving as a strong deterrent to those who dare and the instant removal of those who fail to achieve results our football shall show only spasms of life and that too of a very insignificant level of competition.

Various questions being asked these days by the soccer players and fans about poor administration, deteriorated standard of our football, irregularities and corruptions, etc. The common question and talk amongst them - is Sri Lanka Football a one man show, controlled and guided by one individual? The question itself obviously gives the answer, where the whole country is aware of. A single man plays the music and the rest follow dancing to it. So disaster faces Sri Lanka football. Three decades occupying the high chair and positions by one person is a long period of time to put the football administration and the technical aspect of the sport in the correct place where it rightly deserved to be. Unfortunately it has not happened so.

I have been receiving statements, alleging corruption and irregularities in the Football Federation of Sri Lanka and appealing to me to take up these matters with the high authorities. But I am extremely sorry, I cannot represent others in their just and fair complaints, but advice them to address same to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and to the Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage, l am sure they will take necessary action. Though I am not a maestro or the authority in football, I will be able to make relevant comments regarding the draw-backs and blunders on administration and technical aspects of the game. I have applauded the good work on many occasions and criticized short comings in the same breadth. I strongly believe to defend blindly those who have faltered and failed is nothing short a slavish stooge and against ones principle.

To be honest our football has hit a new low and unless there is a change in the whole administration the game is sure to deteriorate further, perhaps falling into an abyss from which there shall be no return. In recently concluded World Cup Football qualifying round our senior national team lost to Philippines 4-0. Our Under 16 National youth team has just returned to the island after participating at the Asian Youth Championship held in Nepal, losing all 3 matches, beaten by Bangladesh 6-2, Nepal 6-0 and by Maldives 2-0.

From these results it is crystal clear either at the senior level or at grass-root level our National teams’ performances are below expectation, even at the SAARC region. Innocent, immature, and ill-trained youth players have been used as scapegoats by the tour crazy officials who don’t care about the future of the young football players. Officials must realize, exposing our kids and youths on foreign soil without adequate training facilities not only brings disgrace to their beloved parents, it is to our country as well.
Soccer is one sport that has suffered immeasurably in the hands of officials blissfully ignorant of the game. On the few occasions I was involved in the policy making body of the Football Federation.

I did honestly make every effort to channel the thinking of my colleagues to matters of technical importance. In fact, I have submitted a volume of memorandums listing and detailing the promotion and technical development of the game, particularly in the schools and clubs. My colleagues in the Exco accepted without a whimper all my proposals, but drew no interest, no comments and no proper response whatsoever. Three things determine this peculiar attitude of these officials. Firstly, being non-technical men, the depth of understanding was extremely shallow. Secondly, the glamour and glitter - the pomp and publicity in tournaments and cup finals was the greater attraction. Finally they care a damn - to the game and the country.

During the past five years or so our Senior National Team and the Youth National Teams were getting bruised and battered in the international competitions by unrated outfits thereby placed in the bottom at the world football ranking. In the seventy years of Association Football in this country this is the lowest level ever reached. Yet the officials of the FFSL continue to give a false appearance to the soccer loving public with appropriate news flashes - that we in the right track to achieve international standards.

The plain and simple truth is that football of Sri Lanka is at the rock bottom level. Does performing standards matter anyhow? Who is bothered? Isn’t our top brass in the AFC and FIFA an achievement good enough? Is it our motherland that matters or the personal glory, fame and other benefits? The patriotic zeal and feeling will only come to a sportsman who has represented his country in the international level, not to those who have not played the sport even at top school level. Why play ball in the field when we could play the ball in the hall. That is how it goes.

A sport organization is basically formed for the technical promotion of the sport. For whatever reason any failure to enhance its performing standards, is nothing short of total defeat of the very purpose for which the particular sport organization has been formed.

Some have got certificates to get over the qualifying rule, while in fact they have not kicked a football properly. Unfortunately when such people hold positions at the top, it is only natural they surround themselves with equally ignorant colleagues so that the stay at the top is safe and assured. A couple of past footballers brought into the caucus is only camouflage if only the sport laws are strictly and rightly followed, most of those pretenders could be unseated. The sport laws are reduced to a joke by those fakes who have circumvented them with utmost ease.

If the Sports Ministry refuses to accept these facts or show a Nelsonian eye, well, then let us say good bye to our hopes and aspirations for international reckoning. Change immediately the entire bunch of administrators retaining a few who are technical competant the rest must be replaced with men of competance, expertise and integrity. Sri Lanka is not starved by such men, the President of Sri Lanka and the Minister of Sports this is over to you.

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