This is the story of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly sides of Sri Lanka Football (SLF). This is the easiest comparison to make, relating the whole scenario, taking characters out of the epic Clint Eastwood cowboy movie. The movie had characters fitting to its titles. The good was good, the bad was very [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

The unholy trinity of Sri Lanka Football

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of local Football

This is the story of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly sides of Sri Lanka Football (SLF). This is the easiest comparison to make, relating the whole scenario, taking characters out of the epic Clint Eastwood cowboy movie. The movie had characters fitting to its titles. The good was good, the bad was very bad and the ugly, was foolish, cunning yet opportunistic.

But, in the case of SLF, all these 3 are bad. Yet, the Good saved the sport from slavery of administrative dictatorship. He is easily identified as the one who brought back democracy but, he too, was an ardent supporter of the Bad who ran the show for decades. The Bad was badly handicapped when the FIFA chained his hands from all affairs including the word ‘Football’. The Ugly, the present heir of Football’s main chair, came to power on the back of the Good.

The well scripted story suddenly takes a twist, when it is announced that an election is on the cards. There was no need to alter the script, as the Good and the Ugly, as in the movie, remained good friends until recently, and sooner this news comes out, the Bad enters and virtually ‘buys’ the Ugly, to work against the Good. The initial arrangement between the Good and the Ugly was, however, to change hands in charge of the caravan, and not let the Bad steer it.

Going back in time, it was the Bad that had sole control of SLF. He was the ultimate decision maker of who took SLF’s top seat, because he was so powerful. The Bad knew the constitutional loopholes and made all possible moves to remain in power, even as a backstage performer.

This ultimate, powerful grip was ripped when FIFA eventually cuffed the hands of the Bad. But the Bad was resolute and adamant, that he should be the ultimate decision maker, even after his hands were tied. This happened exactly for some years, until the Good, a onetime friend of the Bad, sat on the main chair. The Good chose not to become a puppet of the Bad and so changed the history of SLF’s administrative dictatorship, after nearly 3 decades.

The Bad, however, was never willing to give into the self proclaimed godfather status and the treasure cave. He waited for the correct moment to strike, whenever he could, against the Good, who braved almost all of them. In the meantime, when the Sports Ministry was under Mahindananda Aluthgamage, the Sports Law was amended, forcing the Good to bow down to the law. He too followed the styles of the Bad and brought in the Ugly to the main chair, with his strong vote base. At the same time, the Good kept his stranglehold by chairing strong committees of the FFSL, which was way too much and an easy way to support the Ugly, who was now the boss. Sometime later, they became the very same reason against the Good’s sudden downfall.

The Good was in charge of the press, in addition to the monetary affairs, and was always in the spotlight, on TV and in the newspapers, making comments. This created opportunities for the Bad and his gang to strike back. The Bad creates a Judas in the Ugly, against the Good. The Good may never accept the fact that he dug his own grave for his present calamity.

One should master the craft of playing around with power, by sitting in the main chair for some time and gaining experience. They were well mastered by the Bad and the Good, but when the Good gets to know that the Ugly is going to contest against him at the next election, he may have understood the fact that power is not a toy or playground. The Ugly is a former national player, but he is definitely not fit for administration. It was the Good who ran the show for him. The Good is too late when he realizes that bringing a misfit to the top is a wrong move.

The Good may have never thought that the Ugly would secretly sabotage him. By this time, the Ugly was a different man, after feeling the real strength of his position. But even more than the Good, the Bad knew the real taste of the position. He, in secret, executed his plot against the Good, by buying the Ugly. The Ugly changed camp and kicked out the Good and became dependent on the Bad. What is left for him now is to freely contest the top position and win the top chair for the Bad. First, the Ugly has to win the battle and the rest, controlling and governing roles, will be taken care of by the Bad and his clan.

The problem here is not about the Good or the Ugly, even if any one of them comes to power, the status of Football is so pathetic at present that, neither of them will be able to salvage it. By now, the sport is in ruins and is almost a dead entity. The Bad ran the show for close to three decades and laid the foundation for the sport’s ruination, but he became an affluent man, and his intention was to stand behind the curtain and control the show, even if he was not in power. But the Good changed it all, which can be called a brave move. It is not easy to cut down a huge tree that has grown and spread for three decades, and the Good did it. But, what the Good failed to gather is the support of many, who were controlled from the outside by the Bad. Despite that, the Good thrived, sometimes by overestimating himself and thinking that the road ahead is clear and clean to cruise.

What the Good did not know is that, there were informers, not one or two, but plenty around him. The Good saw near, not far, and eventually, he became a victim of the mechanism or, the monster created by the Bad.

Naturally, that’s the way of Football, even on the field. A player may take the ball forward, evading his opposition with clever and nice moves, but a sudden collision can change the whole game. If a team goes out with a perfect plan from the start, every move has the potential of ending up as a goal. The Bad is a master of that craft, while the Good is yet to learn the best in that aspect. Players change teams in professional Football, seeking monetary benefits. The more a player is skilled, higher his value becomes. These are positions similar to SLF’s administration.

The Ugly is a former player who had played the game at the highest level, but the value he did have as a player was justified, when he was offered the top administrative position. He did not think twice to grab it. He is so pumped up now, he is gearing up to defeat the Good.

These are now portions of history and by today, the Good has been ousted from the position he held at regional level, effective April 3, 2017. The situation is now critical, as these moves are made by the Ugly as the leader, that the Good has no role to play here, and because of that, he should not be anywhere, even at regional level. The regional body always endorses the decisions made by the head of a county’s body.

The interesting part here is that, the Ugly is not so intelligent to make such moves. So, it is apparent there is another behind him and that is, the Bad. So begins the Muppet Show again, after nearly a decade. It’s a joke to talk about ethics in the struggle for power, and it is very clear that, within a short time, things suddenly take a twist, because of those reasons. Or else, within a short time before the elections, someone could have easily brought the topic of ethics, which is apparently a joke.

The Ugly, now has started to score goals, and the ball feeder is none other than the Bad. The Ugly is so cozy in his playing style.

But, what many have failed to gather is, as in the movie, the Ugly is a fox. He is cunning and opportunistic. If he comes to power, he can be bought very easily, which means that, the top chair is up for grabs for cash. The situation is leading towards surprising avenues and the destinations are dangerous. With the present situation, if the Ugly wins, the Bad wins. If the Good wins, the Good wins. One cannot act neutral, thinking that is the best way out, if that comes to everyone’s minds, Football is the ultimate loser. The real situation is that, the Good never defeated the Bad, even when he took the top chair. The truth is, the Bad is a virus, and now it has begun to strike again through the Ugly. So choose — is it the Good, the Bad or the Ugly.

 S.W. Sirimewan  Balangoda

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