If football is to make substantial progress once again in our country, it should take into account the mistakes of the past, and those who contributed to these mistakes, since a repetition of the same and the acceptance of the person who contributed to the lapses are certainly going to damage further in the future [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Wresting the football initiative – it’s now or never


If football is to make substantial progress once again in our country, it should take into account the mistakes of the past, and those who contributed to these mistakes, since a repetition of the same and the acceptance of the person who contributed to the lapses are certainly going to damage further in the future as well.

With our present standard of football, we need not rush to compare our game with World Cup or Olympic standards or the standards that we need to compare with Asian teams such as Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait to name a few. Since things have now drastically changed, it’s time to re-organize and reconstitute the structure of the FFSL in a proper manner which is being watched by the soccer loving public at large, with great interest and expectation.

While the Minister of sports making some effort to give a new lease of life to football, the administrators of the FFSL must change their lethargic attitude and work with the Minister and focus truly by effective planning and programs which was lacking and the cause of our unsatisfactory progress in the past few decades.

As mentioned by Trevor Reckerman: “widespread criticism by football watchers had made the sports minister all but annulled the FFSL and bring in an interim administration but it appears that better counsel has prevailed and for the time being at least, he has chosen to give the FFSL representatives a chance to forge a new administration and score a few long awaited goals”, which paved way for the Incumbent President of the FFSL to visit the FIFA headquarters and obtain funds for future football developments.

Can the new chief Ranjith Rodrigo change FFSL’s direction towards success? - File pic

Now that FIFA has come forward to send funds to the developments of the sport, the Incumbent President of the FFSL should take all precautions as to how the funds are utilized, hence there is an old saying that “money is the root of all evils”, if not, he too will face the same consequences and disgrace at the end of his term in office.

No doubt finance and infra structures are very important for the development of the game, however money freely received and improperly spent cannot develop the sport or improve the standard.

When my good old friend Sarath Weerasekera was appointed as the President of the FFSL in 2010, I was the first to comment with regard to his knowledge, position and capabilities with the hope that he would resurrect our football and improve the playing standards. It was disappointing to note that not much headway was made technically or organisationally, and its promotion as a truly national sport under his leadership.

Now that, Ranjith Rodrigo another colleague of mine has occupied the same hot seat in the Controlling Body, will he be able to handle and guide its administration in a proper manner, expected by the Minister of sports and the soccer loving crowd of this country? Having associated with Ranjith for over two decades, no doubt he has the football knowledge, guts and potential to manage the Football House.

However, knowing and working with the present administrators, Ranjith will have to be very careful and take all precautionary measures to save his respect and reputation, when he leaves FFSL at the end of his tenure in office.

My first proposal to him is to immediately get rid of ineffective and inefficient administrator, retaining only a few who are technically competent. The rest should be replaced with men of integrity, competence, expertise and who have at heart the promotion and development of the game throughout the country. Not those who warm their chairs and appear only at cup-finals.

There is no secrete our football has reached the last layer of the base and there is no more to go below. Certainly a complete change in the administration and the technical aspect of the game is essential. Drastic and immediate remedies are needed to reurrect and revive Sri Lanka football from the dismal abyss into which it has fallen in the last decade or so.

What is really necessary to uplift the sport is two simple measures namely to ensure that persons with technical experience and expertise guide football at all levels and secondly to introduce and implement a sensible and constructive football programme throughout from the grass root level.

We have enough talented young players all over the island, it’s a matter of identifying them through proper scouting and selection, train them under qualified and experienced coaches, nourish and financially help them since most of them are from ordinary family backgrounds.

A short term plan and programme implemented to train and built our national teams to perform well at the international competitions.

A long-term programme from the grassroot level is a must viz school, clubs and leagues which heed lot of hard work and sacrifice.
Reactive those 48 leagues spread in the island and appoint officials who are honest, hard working and dedicate to the sport– not those who travel to Colombo to raise their hands at Annual General Meetings.

The greatest drawback for the growth and development of football as a national sport in Sri Lanka and as a serious contender in the Asian Circuit, is the absence of a meaningful collegiate football promotional programme The Sri Lanka Schools Football Association, on which the Controlling Body relies having for a football promotional drive in the schools is woefully week and ineffective. This body, to be effective, should be guided and directed by top rung officials in the Ministry of Education, and should have smaller unit in each district of Education. In this respect we should drive strength from the great pioneering work done by those illustrious principals. Their service and commitment to the sport should exert a powerful hold on our imagination.

Steps must be taken towards promoting football in the school by re- introducing the popular school tournaments such as Mihara Cup, Milo Cup, Brazil Cup, to name a few , no doubt will make significant headway to improve the sport from the grass- root level.

My humble request once again from the Minister of Sports to immediately appoint a Technical Committee with men of a reasonable stature and standing who can command respect with authority , also who have played the game at a higher level, to plan , promote and produce technical excellence in our football. This committee should go into all technical aspects of collegiate, club, Leagues and international football and its recommendation put into effect by the Football Federation as a matter of urgency. In this way there is hope for the sport in the years ahead.

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