Where have all the good men gone?
Three or four decades ago, our local sports structure had at its apex and around it, brilliant men who were matchless in knowledge of the sports, peerless in commitment and integrity and selfless in service. All these virtues and attributes woven togethe made them as priceless silk upon which they left an indelible imprint that the relentless march of time could not erase.
When the late Dudley Senanayake created a Ministry for Sports, his cherished desire was to offer the necessary guidance and assistance through state participation, so as to help achieve technical excellence in our sports. Limited though in financial resources the Ministry however has always offered the National sports bodies guidance and assistance ungrudgingly. This was followed by late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to a certain extend.
On the other hand if we have failed to achieve international reckoning or at least Asian reckoning in our major sports disciplines, we must blame ourselves and none else whomsoever. The root of the problem is the quality of leadership most of our National Sports controlling bodies. Take a look with no prejudices and no apprehensions, and you will then come to realise the truth of my doubt.
Let us see with what resources sports bodies and their men of vision labored both day and night in the years gone by. By the sweat of their brow, they left no stone unturned to offer the players – playing gear, playing fields, training camps, sports clinics, competitive matches, residential training, food, medicine and the whole gamut of inputs. All these were made available without the aid of grants, sponsorship etc., while most of the expenses were borne by the officials themselves. Men like Donovan Andree , V.A. Sugathadasa, Robert Senanayake, Julian Grero, E.R.S.R. Kumaraswamy, W.R. Chanmugam, Dr. N.M. Perera, Christoffelsz, Macan Markar, John Tarbat, C.W. Mackie and W.T. Brindley to name a few, grave both of their time and money purely for the love of the sports. Even in the outstations, men of such eminence and stature were prominent in the field of sports. The Spencers and Phillips of Jaffna, Casinadar and McHeyzer of Batticaloa, Dahanayake and Karunaratne of Galle, Samarasekera of Matara, Attygalle and Weragama of Ratnapura, Junaideen, Senanayake and Dr. C.D.L Fernando of Kandy. From the services Rear Admiral Royce De Mel from navy. Commander of the Air Force Rohan Amarasekera, Brig. D. Ramanayake from the Army, Cmd. A.R.C. Fernando from the Navy, DIG B.M. Weerapitiya, Snr. DIG Van Twest and ASP V.K. Arumugam from the Police are but a few whose names come into my recollection in a flash. Many were such benefactors who gave guidance and direction to our sports without the slightest fanfare.
I remember with vivid freshness, how on a number of occasions V.A. Sugathadasa dipped into his pockets and dished out financial assistances to many a sportsman. He found jobs for many sportsmen, who even now receiving a pension to run their day to day life. Such were the qualities of these genuine sports administrators of the bygone era. No photographs, no publicity, no tom-tom beatings – only providence knew of the good being done by these exemplary men they were like fathers who lighted up the lives of many a melancholy sportsman.
Another distinctive feature was their conspicuous aversion to public gaze and notice. They shunned press publicity and never bargained for travels abroad via the sports they served. Very often, one could see these administrators around the fields of practice, assiduously watching the training. They almost became a part of the training camp. No coaches or trainers could bluff and bluster with their job or favour in the selection of the team they handled.
They also promoted the sports in the outstations through a network of smaller affiliates and visited these areas on a regular basis. Many Presidents of the governing bodies, who held their quarterly meeting in the outstations, thus taking the message with them directly and effectively.
But what of today? The deterioration of sport commenced with the old order yielding to the new. New traits of some of those who are called to guide the destinies of our sports have further darkened the picture, causing immeasurable harm to the sports. Today, the spectre of a putrid sports climate is right before our eyes. Except in cricket and netball to an extent, the rest of our team sports are nowhere near Asian standards, particularly soccer, where we are in fact at the bottom of the barrel, scratching and groping in the dark. The only ray of brightness has come our way – and that too, so irregularly – in some individual performance. For instance the achievements of Duncan, Ediriwirasingham, Rosa, Lafir, Nandasena Perera, Wimaladasa and still recently Susanthika, have been purely individual and do not reflect as results of organized planning and the direction of the respective controlling bodies.
The blame must lie squarely on those who control sports today. Evidence clearly indicates that top officials in most of our national bodies are men without an inkling of technical knowledge, or competence. A good example – In the recently concluded Olympic Games held in London, thirty officials accompanied a small contingent of seven competitors from Sri Lanka, itself shows the attitude and aim of the present day administrators of the controlling bodies.
This country has the stuff with all the experience and technical competence to catapult us into the Asian limelight or even to the Olympic fore, if only they are chosen and called upon to deliver the goods. But alas! all successive governing bodies have failed to cry halt to this crime and many are those who join the bandwagon seeking new pasture for their kith and kin, friends and associates, personal benefits, personal richer and publicity – all in the name of sports – the game’s the thing.
If is vitally necessary if we are to reach Asian standards or Olympic standards to lay strict guidelines for our controlling bodies. In this regard I hasten to suggest two prerequisites which in my view would eventually (a) catapult us to Asian or Olympic standards soon (b) automatically leave out those who have been unproductive. The Ministry of Sports too has an impeditive roll to play in this endure.
While the Sports Ministry itself lacks personal at the front lines with adequate expertise and experience, how on earth could they challenge another pretender? What is really necessary to uplift our sports are two simple measure, namely to ensure that persons with technical experience and expertise to guide our sports at all levels and secondly to introduce a process of change our officials not on the basis of a limited period in office, but strictly on the failure to produce competitive excellence in the sports they save.
Unless and until the Sports Ministry is geared to implement these two proviso’s our sports internationally will stand where it is.
The write is a Former National Football Captain and National Coach
comments powered by Disqus