Comedy of errors in our football
Looking back at some of the strange actions of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) over the years, done wittingly or unwittingly, it appears that what is necessary at the helm of affairs is not class or super managers, but simply a James Bond to unravel the mysteries of local football. To go down memory lane briefly would suffice to prove this point.
A couple of years ago the Football Federation of Sri Lanka change over of the National League Tournament to a knockout competition at the end of the League system, not only made a mockery of the League Tournament, where each participating club plays the other on a points system based on a win, draw & loss but also totally unjust and unfair by the club which at the end of the competition of all the league matches, has in fact secured the highest number of points and unquestionably is the winner of the League Tournament.
The Federation selected the four clubs that have scored the highest number of points at the conclusion of the league Tournament and then made them play in a cross semifinal and then final on a knockout basis, thus created a “cocktail” with both a league and knock-out phase, titled the Notational League. As it happened in 1991, the Police Sports Club who scored the highest number of points at the conclusion of the league matches, and thereby rightfully were the National league champion, ended in third place due to the stupidity and absurdity of a queer knockout phase to a already completed league tournament.This year too there were changes in the F.A. Cup knockout tournament as well. This is obviously not to develop the technical growth of the game or to perform well in the international competition, simply to satisfy few individuals and clubs who help the top brass of the Controlling Body to protect their seats.
The Executive Committee of the FFSL accepted without a whimper the model format introduced a few year ago with the aim of developing the technical growth of the sport on a board based national level. It never happened, drew no interest, no comments and no response what so ever. Two things determined 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 great attraction.
The crave of finance to run the affairs of the Football Federation supersedes all other priorities. No doubt finance is necessary to keep the sports organization afloat. However, it must not be at the expense of the technical needs of the sport.Is the FFSL and its affiliated leagues conduct, control and regulate football tournaments in accordance with the charter, code and ethics of the Federation international de Football Associations (FIFA) or according to their own will, fancy and convenience?Another meaningless exercise the Football Federation resort to is the so called youth development programmes in selected areas to train the kids with the objective of performing well at the international competition. Such programmes are absolutely essential but that should not be confined to Colombo and its suburb and give a step motherly treatment to schools and clubs in the remote areas.
Each successive administration in the National Controlling Body failed to appreciate the importance of promoting college football. In the recently conducted school Football Tournament in Colombo by the School’s Football Association affiliated to the FFSL, we witnessed when both teams were present at the ground with their parents, due to the delay of the match officials, the match which was schedule to play for one hour was limited to twenty minutes each half of play. Is this the way you develop football from the grass – root level?
The very purpose of having a seventy or sixty minutes minimum time frame for school football matches is to offer both competing teams a fair period to display their talent and prowess in the numerous skills of the sport, such as ball controlling, passing, shooting, dribbling, heading which are executed with varying techniques that provide in turn numerous tactical plays in defense, midfield and upfront, quite apart from the enormous degree of strength, speed and stamina demanded from every player throughout the entirety of play. All these aspects and features rolled into a continuous motion of contest is all what soccer is about. To limit the playing time for forty minutes is not only unholy and unfair, but a great betrayal of soccer. Unfortunately the officials of the School Football Association do not realize and understand the importance of this aspect.
The Mercantile Football League which has a longer history in conducting tournaments than the National Controlling Body now runs its tournament in an improper manner. When a match ends in a draw it is decided by penalty shootout, where each team is allowed to take five penalty shots at the goal to decide the winner. This is in accordance with the FIFA rules. The present officials of the Mercantile League have reduced the penalty shoot out to three, thereby not giving a fair chance for both teams. Whose stupid rule is this?
A big mistake the Football Federation makes, is the issuing of Football Coaching License to every Dick, Tom and Harry who has not played proper school or club football. Further, appointing National Coaches, who have not played top level school or club football licenses and certificate cheap commodities are freely available now. How many of these coaches can actually impart their knowledge properly by demonstrating the basic skills and techniques to the young players? It is evident from the recently concluded Pre-Olympic Football Tournament held in Iran, where our under 23 National Team got severely hammered by Saudi Arabia 7-0, Syria 4-0, Kyrgyzstan 5-0, held Pakistan to one all draw and Palestine nil all, thereby conceding 17 goals, scoring only a solitary goal against our opponents. Lame and customary excuses for our team’s pathetic display have already surfaced and the funniest of them are – we have no choice but to put our faith on those available to us in Sri Lanka, due to lack of financial support from the Sport Ministry to manage the National team, the peculiar hot climate in desert, that made our boys virtually immobile. Please tell us another one just like the other!
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