By Subhani Hassimdeen – It’s almost a tradition in this country to burst into bouts of euphoria whenever a foreign soccer expert arrives. The scenario was the same, when Krautzman, Pape, George Ferreira – the father and son combination arrived here not so long ago. Medals, trophies, championship and heights of technical excellence were reached [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The blueprint for soccer excellence


By Subhani Hassimdeen –

It’s almost a tradition in this country to burst into bouts of euphoria whenever a foreign soccer expert arrives. The scenario was the same, when Krautzman, Pape, George Ferreira – the father and son combination arrived here not so long ago.

Medals, trophies, championship and heights of technical excellence were reached all on paper and even before the experts got into their track suits – Krautzman for one year , Pape for five years and the Brazilian father and son for five years, left no stone unturned in their pursuit to place our soccer somewhere high at least in the Asian Circuit. Yet at the end of their labour, our soccer remained the poorer, with our national team being humiliated in most of the Asian football competitions.

Sri Lanka is not short of talented players; what lacks is a comprehensive action plan. - File pic

On paper these experts had conducted numerous training courses in the country and produced over 500 coaches. How many of them have actually contributed to the development of the game and produced fruitful results?
Hardly before the Brazilian Coach shed a drop of sweat, the media raced to the level of absurdity by a guarantee of the Gold Medal for us at the S.A.F Games and making another Cameroon of Sri Lanka. It was also reported that Ferreira was paid a monthly salary of Rs 349,000 /= and a cumulative figure of rupees four million one hundred and ninety thousand for a year, plus accommodation and transport, primarily to get the Gold medal at the SAF Games.

I have no grouse nor should else have on the contractual figure of payment to a Brazilian coach, for that was the price. However my comment is on a specific assignment given to Ferreira at such a figure. It was reported the Brazilian has only come to train our National squad to win the Gold at the SAF Games at such a low profile competition, and I say it is a colossal wastage of money, for a very insignificant return. And at the end of their contract period to mention that the Brazilian father and son are only PTIs not coaches- isn’t ridiculous!

After all Edward Wickremasuriya who was a National coach during that period, in a matter of six months, trained the National squad to beat Thailand, considered to be within Asia’s first ten top soccer national and he was paid Rs 7000/= only. In the Brazilian’s own estimation the standard of soccer in India, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is of the same level, so what on earth is the achievement or the glory we are looking for and for such a fabulous price.

To cover – up the errors and blunders of the past, the top brass in the FFSL has now decided to bring another Brazilian expert to handle our National team. Is it, now to win a Gold medal at the forth coming Olympic Games or to bring the World Cup to our country? What a funny day dream is it? We have a very long way to go up on the football ladder. Need lots of hard work and sacrifices.

In the recently concluded Asian Confederation Football Competition held in Bangkok our National team lost to the war torn Afghanistan 1-0 , lost to Laos 4-2 whom we beat 3-0 at the Jakarta Football Tournament held in Indonesia in 1972. I had the privilege of scoring the opening goal in this encounter and Judy Preena scored the other two goals. By scoring 4 goals to us, Laos not only taken a sweet revenge from us after 40 years, also pushed us further down in the region, just above Mongolia, the weakest team in the region whom we beat 3-0. From the above it is crystal clear we have a world of things to do, to develop our football from the grass-root level.

To bring another Brazilian expert to win matches in the international arena with the quality of players now available, without teaching and training them the basic techniques and skills is like a professor asked to take the kindergarten class, that too when we are extremely in the weakest grouping. Spending in millions to obtain the services of the Brazilian expert is like using a sword to bring down a fly. Soccer is one sport that has suffered immeasurably at the hands of official blissfully ignorant of the game and due to their short sighted thinking and planning.

It must be appreciated, the bold action taken by the incumbent Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage to dissolve the dictatorial management committee of the FFSL who handled its affairs according to their will and fancy during the last two decades or so. Minister now that you have diagnosed the sickness; please go for a complete cure. We have no doubt that President Mahinda Rajapaksa too will support and assist you in this endeavor.

The Ministry of Sports has a vital and decisive role to play in the renaissance of our performing standards at least to Asian Level. In conclusion, I wish to mention that I have carried a lone crusade against corruption and mismanagement in football administration in the country for more than three decades, both within and without National Association. I wish to reiterate that I carry no anger, jealous or the remotest ill feeling against any individual. I don’t belong to any political party or opposition groups against football administrators. My only concern and consideration for the sport I love and the Country I represented.

Further I am not a maestro or the authority in football. With a little knowledge and the playing experience I have obtained through the sport, I will not hesitate to come forward, share and work with anybody who has football and the country in heart. Our country is not short of talented players, coaches and administrators, it’s only a matter to identifying them. Assign to them with a sensible plan and program to develop football from the grass – root level. The Situation though grave, is not totally hopeless, if only the Minister of Sports:-
-Could demand from the Controlling Body the re-activation of its football leagues as a top priority ,
-Secondly a National Technical Committee set up by the Ministry of Sports to plan, promote and produce technical excellence in our football should come in to force immediately. This Committee should go into all technical aspects of collegiate, club, league and international football. Its recommendations regularly submitted to the Minister of sport for necessary action.

-It is no secret that the successful culmination of all human endeavors begins in school. Serious study of school football should be done immediately. The target should be to introduce football to at least 75% of our schools. further Football should be made a compulsory sport in the schools, since it is a less time consuming, less expensive sport, but a popular sport not only in Sri Lanka.

-Senior International and junior international teams must be brought to our Country regularly to give players the necessary exposure and experience. It is purposeless to send weak teams abroad for the benefit of the chosen few when there are many hundred’s thrusting for exposure and experience locally.
-Get the right men to handle the administration in the Controlling Body and in the affiliated Leagues spread in the island and through them. The sport will thrive once again.

-Ensure that persons with technical experience and expertise to guide football are appointed.
-To introduce a process of change our officials not on the basic of limited period of office but strictly on the failure to produce competitive excellence in the sport they save.

-Immediately change the entire bunch of administrators retaining a few who are knowledgeable and technically qualified. The rest must be replaced with men of competence, expertise and integrity.
-A short term program to build our national teams, to perform well at the international competition and a long term program to improve football from the grassroot level via playgrounds, schools, clubs and leagues must be implemented.

-Finally let us re-establish the good relationship with the officials of the AFC and FIFA which has been ruined and tarnished recently by few individuals for their gain and benefits.

-PS: The Hon. Minister of Sports this is over to you.
The writer is a Former National Football Captain and National Coach

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